Eighteen former student-athletes were announced Thursday as inaugural participants in the U SPORTS Female Apprenticeship Coach Program.
Among those chosen was former standout wrestler Taylor Follensbee. Throughout her time with the Huskies the product of Moose Jaw claimed three Canada West medals – including gold in 2017-18 – as well as a pair of U SPORTS bronze medals.
Having supported the program through practices since graduating from the Huskies, Follensbee will now join the staff of head coach Daniel Olver in a more official capacity.
“I am excited to have Taylor join us, our goal is to build a U SPORTS Championship winning program and in order to do that we need to improve in all aspects, including our coaching capacity,” said Olver. “Taylor brings a recent perspective on having been an athlete and there is no doubt that she will help our program.
Above all else I am happy for Taylor. Coaching is something that is in her future, she is taking this opportunity to develop herself as a coach and we are happy to support that in any way we can.”
Funded through Sport Canada, the new program aims to increase the number of females in coaching positions across Canadian universities, by matching apprentice coaches who have recently graduated, with a mentor coach in one of the 11 U SPORTS-sanctioned sport offerings for women.
“We’re excited to officially launch the Female Apprentice Coach Program,” said Lisette Johnson-Stapley, Chief Sport Officer at U SPORTS. “As we all tackle the unprecedented challenges currently facing Canadian sport, this initiative will open new doors and provide the tools for success to recent alumnae, who aspire to become coaches themselves in the near future. We appreciate the support of our partners at Sport Canada for helping us make those dreams a reality.”
The 18 inaugural participants were selected from a total of 26 applications, and collectively represent eight of the 11 sports – soccer, cross country, track and field, hockey, basketball, volleyball, swimming and wrestling – as well as all four U SPORTS member conferences. Each apprentice coach competed in varsity sport over the past decade, with nine having previously gone on to assistant coaching roles either with their own university athletic program, or at another U SPORTS member institution.
The selection committee itself also included equal conference representation, featuring one member from Canada West (CW), Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) and Atlantic University Sport (AUS).
All participants in the program will be a member of the coaching staff at their respective schools. Where possible, they will take part in team practices and games or meets at both the conference and national levels. Each apprentice coach will also attend at least one National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) professional development activity, while also providing support in areas such as student-athlete skill development, offering pre-game, in-game and post-game feedback, and assisting with recruitment, video analysis, statistics, scouting and academic mentorship and supervision. Job duties may vary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding can also be used towards additional professional development courses and seminars in the field of coaching. The first year of the program officially runs until Apr. 30, with Sport Canada funding already committed as well for the 2021-22 edition.