© John DeCoste
According to Axewomen volleyball coach Michelle Wood, the goal of an event planned at Acadia this October celebrating women in sport at Acadia is to ‘Connect- Advance-Grow’.
Wood, who is behind the idea of an event to both celebrate and raise awareness of female sport, is “really excited about this event.”
To Wood, the key to the success of the initiative is making it sustainable.
“A few years ago, a lavish event was held celebrating Women in Sport at Acadia. It cost a lot of money to do, and it didn’t generate a lot of money. We want this to be more of a sustainable initiative going forward.”
Along those lines, she envisions a weekend event held “every other year, alternating with the Sports Hall of Fame induction,” she explained.
“We’re looking at connecting, and promoting connections between, female alumni, current varsity athletes and potential future athletes.”
Wood sees the event, moving forward, as more than just raising money.
“Money is great, and is always welcome, but sometimes, connections and networking can be more important than money,” she said.
“Alumni sharing their life experiences can be valuable, especially if the alumni have gone on to do great things. It has great potential for connectivity.”
And by connecting past alumni with current and future athletes, she said, each group can impact the others.
Only female varsity coach
At the time Wood was hired, she was the only female varsity coach.
“There were also very few female coaches in other leadership roles, like assistant coaches,” Wood said.
“We need to provide more mentorship opportunities for our female athletes. In the club volleyball program I’ve organized, my varsity players serve as coaches and mentors.”
That’s not only an issue at Acadia – there is a shortage of female coaches country-wide, said Acadia athletics director Kevin Dickie, who says there is a “burning desire” across Canada to “get more young females into ‘grass-roots’ coaching opportunities.”
When the women’s volleyball coaching position at Acadia was advertised, there were 34 applicants, and Dickie says it was refreshing to see the number of women who applied.
“The difference between the number of males and females applying for these jobs is directly proportional to the amount of boys and girls who get into coaching at all. As that continues to improve, you’ll see things even up,” he added.
In conjunction with the Women in Sport gala event, there will also be a coaching symposium, with the focus on coaching opportunities for women.
“We’re not just asking for money, we’re planning to give something back, in terms of mentoring and networking opportunities,” she said.
The symposium will be geared primarily at female coaches and male coaches who are coaching female athletes.
As part of making the initiative sustainable for the long-term, the intention is to initiate five awards, in three categories.
“We’re planning to provide on-going support for two community sports teams we will seek out and identify. We’ll inaugurate a named financial award, to be presented annually to two current female athletes, and we’ll acknowledge a female alumnus who has contributed to the advancement of female sport,” Wood explained.