Looking for the stars

Top nations work on improving women’s programs


Martin Loukota from the Czech Ice Hockey Associations makes one of the presentations at the Yearly Training Plan program of the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp. Photo: Toni Saarinen

VIERUMAKI – During the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp some of the top nations sent participants to the Yearly Training Plan program to work on improving their women’s hockey programs and look for measures how to move forward.

The program was led by Kevin Figsby, the director of member services for Hockey Canada who has been involved in high-performance coaching as a coach for 30 years, and by Steve Norris, a renowned British sports and physiology scientist who is working WinSport Canada, also known as the Canadian Winter Sport Institute.

The participants reviewed the past development, learned from the Figsby, Norris but also from other speakers such as Hockey Canada President and CEO Tom Renney, who talked about the importance of women’s hockey for growing the game, Sommer Christie, who talked about mental preparation, and Paul Carson in a session about development programs.

Then the challenge was to use all the information for themselves, to analyze, plan the future but also to use the week at the Sport Institute of Finland in Vierumaki for networking.

“We look at the aspect of planning for success. The most important thing is to start with a plan and work on it to have the success you want to have. The presentations is just to have a look at all the work we’ve done this week, formulate ideas and put into a blueprint and work with it for the short term, medium term and long term so you continuously upgrade the plans,” Figsby said.

“We’re talking about the passion of the game a lot. That’s something that is common to everybody in the room and who are looking at the growth of the game not just for women’s hockey. If we improve in one aspect of the game it moves into the entire game.”

The participants worked on own presentations to show where they want to go and how. The Czechs for instance aim at making the Olympics for the first time in women’s ice hockey through the qualification tournament for PyeongChang 2018 and ideally by qualifying directly as a top-5 nation for Beijing 2022. An ambitious but not impossible goal considering their good results in the Women’s and U18 Women’s World Championships.

As potential measures Martin Loukota talked about hiring a full-time professional head coach and part-time assistant coach as well as developing the domestic women’s league.

Marion Herrmann from Germany wants to work on a new national U18 women’s competition to improve development at a young age. At the moment girls are playing in boys’ leagues before they drop out and move to senior women’s hockey or abroad.

Lubomira Kozanova came to Vierumaki for Slovakia with the aim at bringing the country back to the top level of women’s hockey where it played until 2012. To do so she also wants to improve in girls’ hockey and improve the fitness level not only for national team players but also reach out to the clubs.

Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer aims at doubling the number of players and improving the Hungarian women’s national team to a top-10 team in the world.

“We want to improve fitness levels. At the High-Performance Camp the players can see how they’re doing in top countries,” she said and hopes for more camps in the country and more exhibition games as well as a strength and conditioning program for national team players so they can work more off ice than on their club team.

With Daniela Diaz the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation has for the first time a full-time person for women’s hockey. She concluded her first season as the women’s national team coach and wants to work against hurdles in her country.

“We have a small number of competitive club teams and players. And we have clubs that don’t take girls to their youth teams,” she said. It’s an area she wants her country to become more open as well as having better facilities on and off the ice for women’s club teams.

Martin Kogler mentioned that the number of high-performance player in Austrian women’s hockey is too low to make the country more competitive and the access to hockey for girls is limited.

“Another problem is that players go abroad but not necessarily to top competitions and come back in a worse condition,” he said and would like to have a female trust person for girls in ice hockey and Austrian coaches in the national team program.

Arto Sieppi from Finland doesn’t have the same issues with Finland being the top-ranked European country in women’s hockey.

“We have a good player pool by European standards with good team staff. We will have a full-time coach for the Olympic season as of 1st May and we have a centralized U18 team in Kuortane. But we still don’t have enough high-performance players to compete for a gold medal,” he said.

He wishes to have a different mentality like in men’s hockey where Finland has risen to a top contender since the ‘90s. Finland won the U20 and U18 Worlds this year and silver with the men’s national team. He hopes to develop such a gold-medal culture for women’s hockey as well and that the players buy in. To do so he sets the bar high with an ambitious goal: gold and a European attendance record when Finland hosts the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in 2019.

In this program the women’s hockey representatives from the participating national ice hockey bodies were able to learn more about where they are, their needs and plan the way to success. Concrete measures that they will work on back home may be eligible to IIHF subsidies through the IIHF's National Association Assistance Program.

“What we’re doing here is to analyze in what areas they may need assistance with and then develop the plan, concrete objectives and goals so they can say if they get the subsidies they will know what they need to do and the results they have,” Figsby said.

For the participants who joined in from various countries, the camp is over now but with the end of it the work on implementing the plans back home and working on resources is just starting now.

Click here to find out more about the 2016 IIHF Women’s High-Performance Camp, the programs, photos and a camp video.

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