Coaching Association of Canada

Paying it forward – the Women in Coaching National Coach Workshop

April 12, 2011

I attended my first National Coach Workshop at Jackson’s Point, ON from March 25-27, 2011 as a new member of the CAC team and Women in Coaching consultant. There were over 40 participants in attendance this year with 20 Olympic, Paralympic and national level coaches nominated by their National Sport Organizations, five national team apprenticeship program coaches and nine Canada Games apprenticeship coaches that were funded by their provinces to attend for the first time. Talk about support! The workshop was facilitated by amazing forces for women in sport – Dr. Dru Marshall, Dr. Penny Werthner, Dr. Guylaine Demers, and Sheilagh Croxon, CAC Women in Coaching Consultant. What an experience to have so many women at different points in their careers all working together, sharing stories and discussing the same challenges.

The idea of paying it forward proved to be a successful concept for this workshop. Presentations and small group discussions were held on how to increase, retain and recruit women into coaching and leadership positions. Political advocacy and advocating for oneself were presented as possible solutions to issues facing women in sport, as well as the concept of “sitting at the table” as per this video of Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook on TED TV:

Manon Perron, the coach of 2010 Olympic bronze medallist figure skater Joannie Rochette, is one of the most assertive people I have ever met and a true role model. She gave a compelling account of Joannie’s talent, perseverance and journey to the Olympics and how their carefully constructed plan was scrapped when Joannie’s mother died suddenly and how she had to take charge and re-plan the entire week with her team. Her description of how this unfolded struck an emotional chord with everyone in the room. The importance of showing strength, knowing your athlete and asking for help – led the entire support team to a successful end result. Of special mention was the respectful relationship that Manon and Joannie had developed with the media over the years and how the media gave them space and respected their needs during the competition. I was surprised to learn that Manon also had a mentor coach leading up to and during the Olympics who became a huge support for her – Danièle Sauvageau, six-time Olympic hockey coach.

I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting one of the most high profile women coaches in Canada - Mel Davidson, the head coach of the women’s 2010 Olympic gold medal hockey team, for the first time. An excellent speaker, she presented to the coaches on the theme of ‘On Any Given Day’. She shared her amazing insights on the year leading into the Olympics; the planning, preparation, managing team dynamics spanning a few generations, and communicating and living the vision. She also spoke about learning more from losing, and as a coach - the need to grow and adapt to the changing needs of a team. Using her experience to leave a legacy, following the Games, she visited over 1200 kids in school sport programs, and now provides mentoring opportunities for coaches and athletes for the future. She also echoed the need for a support team. Her messages had a resounding impact on the group.

It just goes to show that no matter how successful you are as a coach you also need the support of people around you and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help! Having someone to talk to, or just stand there to give you a tap on the back might be all it takes to give you the confidence to keep going!

Dru Marshall led an enlightening final session on how to conduct a successful and positive debrief. We all need to do this following every significant event. Dru’s parting message was to focus on solutions, what you should be doing, what you have, what you can gain, what you can do, and why you will be successful.

It was a great experience to meet so many amazing coaches and to hear their stories - all in the same weekend! Canadian athletes are in good hands.

The workshop proved to be motivational and empowered the coaches to build a network of support, to know that they are not alone, to make connections, ask for help, and to listen and build relationships - including becoming mentors and finding mentors for themselves. Sheila Robertson, editor of the CAC Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching, will be writing a detailed account of the workshop – look for this report in the coming weeks. Until next year!

Looking to coach a specific sport?