Coaching Association of Canada

On the road with the Canadian Biathlon Team

January 4, 2012

Hi everyone, my name is Jacqueline Akerman. I am a National Team Apprenticeship Program (NTAP) biathlon coach currently in my second year of the program. Though some of my contracts with Biathlon Canada are above and beyond the NTAP program, this Women in Coaching grant has given me opportunities to learn and grow as a high performance coach. I am very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to supporting other women in sport in the future.

When I first coached at an international competition in 2003, I was the only female coach present. The numbers have slowly increased, and this past month I was among four other female coaches of the near 100 total on the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Cup tour - one step below the World Cup. I hope to see more female head coaches internationally in our sport in the future. I know in order for this to happen we, at Biathlon Canada, first need to deliberately and actively seek out and support more female coaches at the domestic level.

On Dec. 18th I returned from Italy and Austria, from the most successful and exciting IBU Cup tour I have ever coached. It was exciting and successful for a number of reasons: the weather conditions where perfect for racing; the team of athletes and technicians I worked with were prepared, skilled, focussed, and enjoyed each other’s company; the networking and recognition of coaches from other countries was encouraging; and I was able to build on these foundations to provide professional and organized leadership. This resulted in great successes on the scoreboard.

I am very proud to have been part of the excellent results in Europe on this most recent trip. The athletes and their individual coaches laid the foundation through the summer and fall, and took up the challenge on so many levels and delivered in a big way. It was fulfilling for me to work closely with many of these athletes over the past months and years in numerous camps, training and racing competitions. These experiences allowed me to develop trusting relationships and an understanding of each athletes needs and individual strengths and weaknesses. Connecting on this level was key for me to help motivate, encourage and make appropriate decisions for them as individuals and as a cohesive team.

Some highlights of the performances: the day of the men’s sprint competition, I was in the shooting range watching the athletes shoot (I look through a spotting scope to se

e where each shot goes and make a call if any corrections to their shooting is needed). We had four men in this competition and each man shot two bouts of five shots. Three of the four athletes shot a “clean” race - meaning they hit all of their targets! With the four men combined, they hit 38 of 40 shots. This was so exciting and we received a great amount of respect and congratulations as a team -- such a great feeling. For two of the athletes, Nathan Smith and Scott Gow, that shooting performance, combined with excellent skiing, placed them in a bronze and fourth place finish respectively. Nathan and Scott join only a small number of Canadians who have managed to obtain such results in the past.

The mixed relay: this competition consists of two women and two men, with the women completing a ski distance of 6km, and the men 7.5km. They each shoot two bouts of five shots with an extra three shots (spares) per bout if needed. This race went wonderfully, with Melanie Schultz starting off the team with clean shooting (no spares needed) and gutsy skiing, racing most of the race in second place. She tagged off in fifth place to Claude Godbout who stepped up to the challenge of joining the relay team with only one hours notice as another athlete fell sick. Claude skied an incredibly fast race, shot clean with three spares, and tagged off to Nathan Smith in fourth place. Nathan shot two really fast bouts with one spare each and held our fourth place position. Scott Gow was next and though he is the youngest on the team, he raced like a pro, shooting clean with no spares. In fifth place, he increased his pace and worked to out-ski the many veterans of the other teams on the last lap to have our team finish in an incredible fourth place! We shocked the biathlon world with the performance, and beat our already lofty goal of sixth place.

The results at these two IBU cups and the World Cup so far this season speak of more great things to come from our athletes this year. It has been an exciting time to be involved and for these experiences I am grateful. If you want to learn more about what exactly our sport is, details on some of the competitions I have described, and/or learn more of our successes so far this season, check out our website:

Thanks to the CAC, Women In Coaching, my mentors, co-workers, Biathlon Canada, the athletes and many other supporters for these exciting and successful experiences.

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