2021 iwd we are coaches

A future behind the bench

Hockey Canada and its development programs are helping women earn their coaching certification and give the next generation leaders to look up to

Katie Brickman
March 19, 2021

Hockey Canada is a leader in the game, and the organization is stepping up by providing opportunities for more women to get involved.

Through initiatives like Pond to Podium , We Are Coaches and the Women Master Coach Developer program, Hockey Canada is putting a focus on coach certification and getting more women behind the bench.

“If we want the game to grow, we need women involved. If we want the game to continue to be welcoming and have a positive environment, we need women,” says Teal Gove, manager of hockey development with Hockey Canada. “Having women as coaches increases the likelihood that girls will continue to play and then also get involved in leadership positions, which just makes the game better at all levels.”

That’s where a program like We Are Coaches is important. It was designed to increase the number of women coaching across the country. The clinics – taught by women, for women – help build infrastructure to support and sustain women's participation in hockey by removing barriers to coaching education.

“Sometimes it's pretty intimidating going into a room full of male coaches to get coaching certification, and many [women] may hesitate because of that,” says Gina Kingsbury, director of women’s national teams. “So, we have to make sure we break down those barriers, make it as accessible as possible, and, not only to grow our female presence and provide growth to ensure that we have large numbers, but also, there's a lot of knowledge in these female leaders.”

The women leading the We Are Coaches clinics are products of the Women Master Coach Developer program, which was launched in 2019. Delegates are selected for the program, and they must complete online modules and in-person sessions, as well as collaborate with their Member to deliver a We Are Coaches program in their province or territory in order to receive their certification.

“You can’t be what you can’t see. If women don’t see other women coaching, they’re not going to coach,” says Gove. “It is important that girls have role models that they can drive to be, and seeing women in leadership positions is key to that.”

Over the next year, with financial support from the Hockey Canada Foundation, more than 40 We Are Coaches clinics will be held across Canada, bringing hundreds of future coaches into the game.

That list includes a number of university players; every single student-athlete competing in women’s hockey across U SPORTS was offered NCCP Coach 1 and Coach 2 training through We Are Coaches.

“When Hockey Canada offered the opportunity, it was huge for our players,” says Caroline Ouellette, a four-time Olympic gold medallist and member of the coaching staff at Concordia University, which had 18 current players and eight alumna register. “Many saw the value of getting their coaching certification. We know that many of them will become the coaches of tomorrow.”

The program isn’t just about developing the tactical skills needed to coach. It’s far more than that. The women also learn about leadership skills.

“Coaching is a collaboration, and you want to work closely with the players and get involved in how they are doing and feeling,” Ouellette says. “[The We Are Coaches participants] realize that there is so much to cover in coaching; you never take decisions that are personal towards a player, you do what will help the team perform the best, and I think they realize it is harder than it looks.”

In her role as the head of the women’s program at Hockey Canada, Kingsbury has seen the benefits of these programs firsthand. The more women at the highest levels that go through the training, the better the chances they stay in the game.

“From a national team perspective, it provides a lot of opportunity for our athletes in their transition. A lot of them are taking these courses, or they're taking these opportunities to enhance their second career,” she says. “They're already thinking ahead of when they are done playing; they still want to be a part of this game and want to be a part of growing this game. These programs are allowing our athletes and staff to be able to continue to grow and think of the possibility of transitioning into the game in a different role, which I think it's huge.”

Inspiring future generations comes by showing young girls that they can see themselves in their role models, on and off the ice. As the push for a sustainable professional league is led by some of the best women in the game, Hockey Canada is leading the way in developing leaders behind the bench.

“Hockey Canada is world-leading in the game of hockey and certainly world-leading in the game of women’s hockey. Not only are we part of the movement, but we are now leading that movement,” says Kingsbury. “I think Hockey Canada sees that, values that and certainly demonstrates that with our initiatives and our focus through these programs. Our overall goal is to get women into those [leadership] roles.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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