Amanda Bäckebo: Leaving Home Was Painful, But I Followed My Heart

Amanda Bäckebo is a 20-year-old hockey player from Sweden who is not afraid to follow her heart.  She is also a very charming, witty and eloquent second-year college student athlete at Syracuse University. As in many Swedish families, hockey is a part of her family tradition and everyday life. Through hockey, she got a chance to see the world and study over 6300 kilometers far away from home. And she grabbed it, with both hands, because it was one of her biggest dreams. In her free time, she likes to watch movies, read, do some puzzles, or hang out with her family or friends.

Amanda Bäckebo

TOO YOUNG TO BE HOME ALONE, BUT OLD ENOUGH TO START PLAYING HOCKEY

I started playing hockey because both of my brothers were playing it, in a small local club Gagnefs HC. I was about 3 years old, so my parents had to bring me with them when they watched my brothers’ practices. I was too young to stay home alone. To keep me entertained, they put up obstacles along the boards, so I could skate there.  And that’s how I started, and I just kept going. It was natural for me to play hockey, since it was in the family. However, some of my friends didn’t understand why I couldn’t play with them all the time, because I was often busy with hockey practices. That is the reason why I have only a few close friends outside of hockey today.

MY PARENTS HAD TO SHOVEL SNOW DURING GAMES

I cherish a lot of warm memories from those days: our parents shoveling snow during a game when it snowed, and when the puck switched zones, having to run back and forth to continue shoveling; sitting on the bench wrapped in blankets to stay warm; or on heavy snow days, just shovelling paths in snow and playing tag. These are the things that kept me going.

Amanda with her family

THE LEKSAND IF EXPERIENCE

The next club I played for was the Leksand IF. It was a much bigger club, with a team in the highest Swedish league, so there were two ice rinks and better  conditions for the players. Now I played at an indoor hockey arena, I had newer equipment, serious practices, locker rooms, space to store my equipment there, so I didn’t have to drag it back and forth, etc. They also had two women’s teams, one in the highest league and the other in the second highest. These are all the reasons I started playing there, so far I had only played with boys, but now I played with both boys and girls.

i FOLLOWED MY HEART

At the age of 14 I went up and played with the first womans’ team. In that period I played on three different teams for a while. I kept on doing that until I was 16, when I focused just on the women’s team. While playing in Sweden, I was dreaming about a scholarship in the US. In order to realise my dreams, I attended a few camps, where I got a chance to be seen by the foreign hockey scouts. And, one day I got an invitation to go to the US. And I followed my heart.

Amanda with her Syracusa Teammates

LEAVING HOME WAS PAINFUL FOR ME

Every sport comes with both good and bad memories. When hockey is a major part of your life, it is very painful to get a coach who does not believe in you. Even more so if they don’t try to help you get past the problem that stand in  way of you playing hockey. I have gone through that situation a lot of times. Also, leaving home to move to another country was very painful for me, mainly because I really love my home. In the past, even a two weeks’ vacation was enough to get me cranky and I wanted to go home. You also miss out on a lot of events with your friends since hockey takes up a lot of time.

Amanda with the Swedish National U18 Team, The Four Nations Tournament, Budapest 2013. Photo by: Somogyi Viktor

A COLLECTION OF FRIDGE MAGNETS FROM THE HOCKEY COUNTRIES

Thanks to hockey, I’ve been able to attend a few camps in the different countries and meet a lot of new people. I have a collection of fridge magnets from the countries I’ve been to and played hockey, it’s fun to look at them and think of how I wouldn’t have been able to visit them without playing hockey. This sport has opened the world for me!

I also like the feeling of achieving goals, like the happiness of beating a personal record. And, of course, some rewards and wins are also on this list.

Amanda in front of the Hungarian goalie, the WCC in Budapest 2014. Photo by: Somogyi Viktor

WHO KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE WILL BRING

After graduating college I’ll go back to Sweden and either take a study break and find work while still playing hockey. Or I’ll keep on studying to become either a diplomat or an engineer.  But who knows, I still have two and a half years left of college. A lot can still happen in that time to influence my decision.

After almost 18 years of playing hockey, at the end of my story I would tell younger girls just to have fun while playing, because it will take up a lot of time, and require focus, and determination!

 

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