A coach: an individual responsible for the integrity of a team; a person who seeks growth and success for all his or her athletes during a single shift, a game or even a season. A primordial role often understated and overlooked by many, other than the dedicated coaches themselves.
Let me introduce you to Paul, Jodi and Trina – part of the coaching staff whom played a significant, and always prevalent, role in leading the Calgary RATH to last year’s 2013 NRL Championship title. By speaking with these three individuals, it is clear they understand the importance of coaching and developing well-rounded athletes. They are great coaches. It seams so easy to state such a thing because last year’s team attained what all NRL teams strive for, Gold. However, do not be fooled, their commitment to coaching and to their players, is not limited to the attainment of a medal, it is clear that these three coaches stand behind their players for much more than that coveted title. They respect their athletes and their abilities no matter the outcome. To quote Jodi, “I believe that understanding the female athlete and the psychological aspects of the game are what makes the difference between teams who challenge for the top and teams who win Gold. Being loyal, honest and having strong communication skills coupled with a technical and tactical understanding of the game are things I strive for in coaching and my athletes.”
But why coach ringette? As ringette athletes, we just know, there is just something different about the game and the people involved that sets it apart. For Jodi, once she got over the idea of wearing “boy skates” at a young age, she credits the special ringette “sub-culture” that kept her going and being excited for 7 am practices in Medicine Hat. Paul’s love for ringette came in a roundabout kind of way. In Paul’s Pro-European hockey days, he was convinced his girls would play hockey, they were going to be a hockey family, no questions about it. However, the first time he attended his then 7 year-old’s ringette game, he was sold. It was the sense of family, the teamwork, the cheers and the sheer skill required to compete in ringette that kept him involved. It was the simple smile, 15 years ago, on his daughter’s face when she stepped on the ice until she got off that convinced him they were now a ringette family.
The RATH coaches’ commitment to coaching was ingrained in them by their parent-coach. Both Paul and Jodi had their fathers as coaches, to whom they are grateful to have supported them as young athletes. Later on, it was long time ringette coaches, Jeff Leonard and Cliff Lawrik, whom inspired the RATH bench staff to give their names and embark in more competitive situations, games, AA teams, to which led them to be the NRL coaches they are today. Making the move to the NRL was not without it’s challenges, the biggest adjustment for Paul was exactly something he’s always admired in his athletes, how engaged they were! Ringette players at the NRL level continually challenge their coaches, not to be difficult, but because they strive, always, to be better. He had always dreamt of coaching these types of athletes but acknowledges the dedication, preparation and thought prior to every game and practice. Every day is a learning experience.
Like any league, the NRL has faced and continues to face different challenges. This season, in the NRL West, another two teams have taken a forced hiatus from competition, the Winnipeg Prairie Fire and the BC Thunder will not be competing in the league. It is not due to the lack of skilled players in those provinces, more so, it is due to the financial burden to play and travel in the NRL West. Near the inception of the NRL, Jodi worked at Ringette Canada as the Technical Director. She recognizes that “the league has faced many challenges throughout the years, however the passion of the participants and the quality of the game at its highest level has never been compromised”. Her wish for the future of the league would be to make it more affordable so that more athletes who are capable of playing at the elite level are not precluded for financial reasons. Paul and Trina resonate the same; they would like to see the NRL find ways to make participation more affordable for everyone. They have no doubt that if it were more affordable to play, there would be even more athletes and franchises competing across the country.
Ultimately, they may or may not realize it, but what Paul Jodi and Trina see in us as players and young women is what we emulate, or try to, in them! Paul, Jodi and Trina, thank you for being great individuals, coaches and mentors. As a RATH player this season, I look forward to continue to grow as an athlete and an individual under your ever so engaging leadership. Thank you for your commitment to us, to the league and to the sport of ringette.