Women in Coaching: An Apprenticeship Program

Call it culture, call it history, call it anything you wish, but it is of no surprise that women have had a harder time finding coaching and leadership positions in sport. However, thanks to the efforts of many remarkable women before me, more women are receiving coaching opportunities in their sport. Beginning in 2001, the Coaching Association of Canada, Women in Coaching, National Team Coaching Apprenticeship Program (NTAP) started providing numerous opportunities for women coaches to work with national teams and within national programs leading up to major games (i.e. Olympic Games).  The program enables apprentice coaches to take advantage of additional coaching experiences and professional development opportunities to help successfully bridge the transition between domestic and international coaching and/or junior team and senior team coaching.

Janet Arnott, Coach for Team Canada's Jennifer Jones at the 2010 Scotties Tournament of Hearts (Photo: Andrew Klaver Photography)

This national campaign is available for female coaches in any sport across Canada.  Anyone can apply to the program and only six women from across the country are selected. I am the second curling coach to receive this prestigious opportunity. In 2001, my friend Helen Radford from Nova Scotia went through the program and found herself apprenticing at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.  Today Helen is still very much involved in coaching.  She is a National Junior Team Leader, a National Coach and is the Nova Scotia Curling Association Manager of High Performance Development.  After talking to Helen, I applied for the program last year and received an 8 month apprenticeship.  I had an amazing time with many experiences – including stopping at a few cash events, working at the National Training Centre with Rob Krepps, the pre-Olympic and Olympic trials, the Olympics and taking on the role of National Junior Team Leader at the World Juniors in Switzerland.   This year I reapplied for the full three year apprenticeship program and was selected in April. So how does the program work?  Well, first you need a mentor coach and I think I have one of the best ones out there.  Elaine Dagg Jackson, the National Women’s Coach, has been my mentor coach since 1997 when I began coaching after leaving competitive curling a year prior.  Next, you need support from your National Sport Organization.  Many thanks to Gerry Peckham from the CCA for supporting, guiding and providing me with some awesome opportunities throughout my time as a coach.  I also have the ongoing support of my provincial sport organization as I strive towards my personal coaching goals. The next year is going to be exciting and I will continue to update you on the happenings in the Women in Coaching program and the National Training Program, for which I am now a CCA National Apprentice Coach.  I will be working closely with Elaine and Gerry and all of our national coaches in both able bodied and wheelchair curling. As I move forward in my coaching career, I would like to thank the efforts and forward thinking of leaders like Sheilagh Croxon, who has been the Women in Coaching consultant for the last four years and continues to be a leader in breaking down barriers for Women in Sport. She has opened a number of doors for females coaches like me and the others involved with this program. See you next time, Yours in coaching, Melissa Soligo