Canadian goalkeeping star turned promising coach Photo: Yan Huckendubler (PAHF)
Canadian coach progressing through opportunities
Throughout this week, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) is celebrating International Women's Day (8 March) by highlighting the progress being made across all levels of the sport thanks to inspiring females. Today we speak to an up and coming coach who is progressing quickly through the ranks by making the most of opportunities.
When Kathryn Williams was presented with the opportunity to join the High Performance Indoor Coaching Course organised by the FIH Hockey Academy in Berlin, Germany (which ran concurrently with the Indoor Hockey World Cup) she leapt at the chance.
“I was just super excited at the prospect of working with experienced coaches and players. I knew it would push me out of my comfort zone but this was a great opportunity for me to not only advance my coaching knowledge but also bring that knowledge back to Canada.”
Kathryn is a star of the indoor game back in Canada. She has played in three Indoor Pan American Cups and the 2015 Indoor Hockey World Cup in Leipzig. At the most recent Pan American Cup in Guyana she was voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament and was also selected for the Pan American Indoor Elite Team. She is also on the University of Toronto coaching staff and becoming increasingly involved in coaching at local and territorial level.
For all these reasons, Kathryn was selected by the FIH Athletes Committee to be sponsored to attend the course.
"There couldn’t be a better learning atmosphere. It was very tough and very intense. We would be working until the early hours of the morning and then getting up early to make sure our presentations were ready."
Kathryn Williams, Canadian Indoor National Team Goalkeeper
Nothing could have prepared the 28-year-old national ‘keeper for the intensity and challenge the course presented. “It was all systems go from the start,” she says. “We started with presentations and I was right out of my comfort zone from the off.”
Kathryn was tasked with presenting a strategy to cope with an opposing team pulling the goalkeeper from the pitch with three minutes left on the clock. The 15 minute presentation was made to a group comprising a diverse group of coaches from all manner of backgrounds and all levels of experience.
“The group was so supportive,” says Kathryn. “I got into it and it was great. There couldn’t be a better learning atmosphere. It was very tough and very intense. We would be working until the early hours of the morning and then getting up early to make sure our presentations were ready.
“I know it is crazy to say it, but in just four days we made some lasting connections. The course offered a chance to network, collaborate and share ideas to an extent that just isn’t possible via social media channels.”
Kathryn will be taking all she gleaned from the course back to Canada. The first thing will be to debrief to Field Hockey Canada coaching staff via a webinar. Then she will be working with both the university and the state youth teams to develop knowledge and skills in indoor hockey athletes.
“European hockey is very different to Canadian hockey,” she says. “There is a much greater emphasis on technical and tactical play in Europe. In Canada and the USA, we rely on fitness and running. We need to really hone our technical skills too.”
It was not all one-way traffic on the course. As a goalkeeper and current player, Kathryn was able to offer the coaching group a very different perspective. And the other coaches were keen to drill her for knowledge. “I felt very tested because I was asked about Canadian ideas and ways of applying the game. It was something I hadn’t been asked to talk about before so I really had to give it some deep thought.”
The long term aim is to coach to the highest standard possible. But for now, Kathryn says she feels at the peak of her game, so the next three or four years will be spent playing and coaching. But, talking to this thoughtful and dedicated sports woman, you get the impression that the High Performance Indoor Coaching Course has just offered her a springboard to a bright future in coaching.
Inspiring more women and girls to become involved in hockey, whether as a player, coach, umpire or in a boardroom capacity is one of the key aims of the FIH’s 10-year strategy, the Hockey Revolution. However, more importantly it is key to the sport maintaining its reputation as being a Equally Amazing for both genders.
With this year's International Women's Day movement calling on action to press forward and progress gender parity, FIH is encouraging everyone involved in our sport to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive. Join the movement: #PressForProgress