Over the past six years, Katie Baker has had an incredible impact on the Women’s National Field Hockey Team. Baker has officially announced her retirement from Team Canada. Though she moves on, her leadership as Team Captain and competitive spirit have truly transformed the culture of the Women’s National Program.
“The change in culture over the past quadrennial is really due to Baker’s leadership,” says teammate Thea Culley. “She is responsible for igniting the fire in each of us to want to change how we operate. Her legacy of relentless hard work will remain because she worked so tirelessly to instil a sense of pride in each of her teammates.”
Katie has been captain of the Women’s National Team since January 2010, when she became co-captain with Stephanie Nesbitt. Nesbitt retired following the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and Baker went on to further develop her leadership style – marked by compassion and commitment to team.
“Baker’s leadership actually contributed a lot to my development as a coach,” says Paul Bundy, Head Coach of the Women’s National Team. “When I first met her, she was just a few years into her career with the National Team. As I emerged into the Assistant Coach role, Katie emerged into the Captain role. She taught me a lot about player development, and how people respond in various situations.”
In addition to impacting her coaches, Baker had tremendous impact on her teammates.
“In my 86 games for Canada, all have been played with Baker,” says Culley. “Her passion showed in every single game, and her ability to cultivate strong personal relationships off the field makes her completely unique. As team Captain, she led by example. Her high expectations of her teammates were surpassed only by her expectations of herself. ”
“She always told us to bring the best of ourselves in every practice, training session and game,” says Tyla Flexman, recently retired member of Team Canada. “It was a privilege to train alongside Baker. She pushed, supported and picked myself and the team up to constantly drive the team forward through thick and thin.”
“Baker is truly an inspirational player, and I have learned so much from her,” says teammate Danielle Hennig. “You could always count on her to leave absolutely everything on the field. She was also the first person to go out of her way to help a teammate.”
Baker truly empowered others to change their mindset on and off the pitch. Katie is a naturally gifted athlete, with an incredible skill base, but she knew that wasn’t enough. She recognized the significance of not only improving technical skills, but making physiology a major part of training. A determined competitor, Baker was intent on being faster and stronger than opponents.
“She is a real competitor,” says former Head Coach Louis Mendonca. “She has always had a full set of skills, and she can do anything on the pitch. She always came to compete.”
Her favourite moment with Team Canada further illustrates her fighting spirit.
“One of my favourite memories with the team was at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara,” says Baker. “Walking onto the field, next to the best player in the world. Ready to fight with all I had, but with a smile on my face.”
Katie’s impact extends far beyond the Women’s National Team. Her road to the National Team was not the stereotypical route. Baker grew up playing ice hockey in her hometown of Argyle Shore, Prince Edward Island – far from the field hockey hotbed on the west coast. Not until Grade 9 did she make the switch from the ice to the field. Despite a lack of elite level training, Baker’s natural ability, work ethic and drive to improve eventually led her to the international stage. She proved that national athletes can come from anywhere, inspiring athletes in her community and throughout Prince Edward Island.
Baker’s journey with Team Canada began in 2004, when she began touring with the Women’s Junior National Team. In 2005, she competed in the FIH Junior World Cup in Chile. Baker’s first senior international appearance for Canada was in 2006 in Cardiff in a match against Wales. Throughout her career, she competed in 114 caps – making her the 8th most capped female in Canadian field hockey. Katie represented Canada in two Pan American Games (2007, 2011), the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the 2010 World Cup Qualifier, and the 2012 FIH Road to London. She was selected to the Pan American Elite Team in 2009 and 2011. Her final match for Canada was in February at the FIH Road to London Tournament in India, winning 3 – 0 over Poland.
“Katie sacrificed everything to play for her country,” says Mendonca. “I always marveled at the way she never expected others to do anything that she wasn’t willing to do herself. She was always there for the team – on and off the field. She hated missing a team event.”
Known for her deep sense of commitment, Baker made her decision to retire in order to pursue further education and a career in social work.
“I know it is time, because field hockey is no longer my number one priority,” says Baker. “Knowing this in my head and my heart, I know it is the right decision to move on. To truly want to achieve team goals, it is imperative that everyone put everything they have into what is best for the team, and what will get us to the Olympics. Knowing this, it is clear to me that this is my time to retire.”
“I’d like to thank Louis Mendonca and Paul Bundy for not only the coaching, but the care and support they have given me over the past four years. I’d like to thank the province of PEI and my community of Argyle Shore. The support I have received has not only formed me as a person, but pushed me as an athlete. I am incredibly lucky to be from such an amazing place. Thank you to my amazing parents, Lorraine Begley, and Richard Baker for their constant love, care, humour, toughness, enthusiasm, and tolerance of me through the ups and downs of my career. Finally I’d like to thank those Team Canada members who pushed me, pushed themselves, and by simply wanting more; worked to change the culture of field hockey in Canada.”
Field Hockey Canada Press Release