“From Athlete to Coach: Women in Coaching”

The ringette game had just ended. It was one of those closely contested affairs. I lost hair and fingernails – you may know the type. The coaching staff was huddled outside of the dressing room in a corner of the cold rink. As our discussion closed, I noticed that one of our assistant coaches was beaming. She seemed in no hurry to leave the scene. I asked her why she coached Ringette, given her busy schedule of University studies. Her reply: “I just love being around these ringette girls.” This coach had had a great playing career, having played for a regional all-star team – known in Ontario as AAA. She had a strong personality and used her confidence and sense of humour to create a bond with the players. She had won one of the difficult battles for Ringette coaches –gaining the respect of the players. This woman is still coaching Ringette – ten years later. We are lucky to have her.

I had a similar conversation with a former professional athlete. He said that what he missed most about playing pro sports was the locker room and the relationship with his team-mates.

Ringette is a social event. Team cohesion and affiliation are strong drivers for ringette players. Effective leaders understand this without question.

Research by Professor of Kinesiology, Nicole LaVoi (PhD), at the University of Minnesota indicates that “female coaches provide a rich opportunity to influence social change, challenge stereotypical beliefs pertaining to gender and leadership, and provide visible, active role models for children and youth—especially for girls. Access and exposure to female role models in positions of leadership (i.e., a coach) is particularly important to girls.”

I have coached competitive girls and women’s ringette for 15 years, and the team is not the same without strong female leadership. The young girls love to have the big sister and the role model. However, as with any group of leaders and followers, there is a transition period where leaders and followers get acquainted. Leaders must earn respect by the ability to direct, facilitate, address issues, deliver on promises, and provide a positive environment, regardless of their gender.

One of the reasons for the success of the MY Summer Ringette Camp is the number, personality, skill, and training of our female leaders. We look for ringette players with playing experience, who have the personality to work with young girls, and the communication skills to educate, nurture and direct. Once the invitation is offered to these female leaders, we see strong loyalty, engagement and commitment. We have no shortage of helpers who want to be part of something – giving back to the sport while building their skills and careers.

In January, 2012, I designed and led a workshop for young female coaches in West Ottawa. Interest was strong. I am delighted that we are forming a new cadre of coaches who will bring value to young Ringette teams.

Coaches – get a young ringette player to help coach your team. Get them the needed training. Offer them a meaningful role on your team.

Your athletes will love you for it.

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