Manitoba is blessed with many strong and knowledgeable female hockey coaches. In a time where the empowerment of women in sports needs as much support as ever, Hockey Canada continues to do its part acknowledging its many leaders in the workforce.
Annually, the governing body of hockey within the country selects provincial and territorial winners from across Canada in both its Female ‘Community’ coach sector and its ‘High Performance’ division. From Manitoba, Janelle Forcand (community) and Sarah Zacharias (high performance) were chosen.
These coaches were deemed to have made significant contribution to the growth of the game within the province. As winners of the provincial coach of the year award, both Forcand and Zacharias have earned $1,000 bursaries.
Adding to that, Forcand was selected as the national winner of the female community coach of the year – an award that goes hand in hand with the presentation of a $2,500 bursary, a customized Team Canada jersey, a five-year subscription to the Hockey Canada Network, a Hockey Canada merchandise package and a tablet.
Winners are chosen by a large selection committee, including Olympic gold medalists medallists Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Gina Kingsbury and Caroline Ouellette, as well as Steve Lacoste, vice-president of sports and leisure with BFL, and Teal Gove, manager of hockey development with Hockey Canada.
The following is the story put out by Hockey Canada on Janelle Forcand following the announcement of her selection:
It all started with a text. Janelle Forcand was sitting by her friend’s pool in the summer of 2013 when she noticed a message asking if she would be interested in working at a week-long hockey school. She thought it sounded like a great job … for a week.
Eight years later, the Winnipeg native has been named the national winner of the BFL Female Coach of the Year award in the community category.
“As a hockey player, I never thought that coaching would be a thing. It never crossed my mind,” Forcand says.
Growing up in the Manitoba capital, Forcand says she was fortunate to play girls hockey throughout her career, even though it was following after her older brother, Scott, that motivated her to get into the game. A long-time member of the St. James Assiniboia Minor Hockey Association, Forcand didn’t crack the AA Titans roster until her final year of minor hockey.
In her early years behind the bench, Forcand worried that lack of high-level experience would be an important determination to coaching success. She has since learned the two aren’t directly correlated.
“Your hockey-playing background doesn’t translate into what your coaching ability can be,” Forcand says. “You can be a successful coach as long as you put the time, the effort and your heart into it.”
Forcand’s assistant coach, Danica Rowinski, says Forcand absolutely lives by that standard, and her players are better for it. Forcand will take her players rollerblading outside of team time or even come out for another team’s practice if a former player makes the request.
“The fact that the girls will reach out to her and she always pays so much attention to what is going on in their lives, I just don’t know many people like that,” Rowinski says. “She does things that she doesn’t need to do when she’s not working or coaching.”
Forcand is not only a positive influence in the lives of her players, but she’s also having an impact on the future of women in coaching. As the female hockey coordinator for the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy (a program designed to increase attendance in socially and economically challenged schools in Winnipeg), Forcand has been introducing young women to coaching by recruiting through her former league, the Manitoba Junior Women’s Hockey League.
“You don’t really have to think too far outside the box to get hockey players involved as coaches, but you just have to go out there and get them and expose them to it, otherwise hockey players won’t really think twice about it because all they’ve really know is being a player,” Forcand says.
While the approach seems like common sense, it’s that level of detail that Murray Cobb, director of the Academy, says sets Forcand apart from other coaches.
“Janelle has taken the time to research why girls are less likely to continue playing sports into their teenage years, and she goes above and beyond to ensure her players don’t fall into this statistic,” Cobb explains. “This goes a long way as an example to other coaches who see the wide variety of activities that Janelle brings to the rink and her players lives to make them want to keep playing hockey and staying active in general.”
Forcand has been the head coach of the U11 girls’ team at the Academy for three seasons and helps with the U13 and U15 teams. Though her first few years behind the bench were at the AA level, Forcand says working with players just learning the game has become her passion.
“Being able to interact with the kids and learn what makes them happy and what makes them who they are; being able to be a part of their experience of hockey and watch them grow and change and evolve and getting to be by their side is huge,” Forcand says with a grin. “Coaching is a selfless job, but it gives so much more to you than you would ever realize.”
One of the biggest hurdles to coaching, Forcand believes, is the perception it takes too much time. While it can be a lot at the elite levels, there are opportunities to give back to the community at the grassroots level with a much smaller commitment. And even the smallest commitment can have a big impact.
“[It gives players] a positive experience with this game in hopes that one day they’ll do the same thing for another kid,” she says.
After eight years of handing out positive experiences, Forcand is being given a positive experience of her own, national recognition of the work that she’s done. It’s given her a chance to look back on her coaching career and consider all the lives she’s touched, friends she’s made and learned experiences she’s had, making her the coach she is today.
“You’re so focused on being proud of your team and your players and your coaching staff and you never really take a moment to be proud of yourself,” Forcand reflects. “I just hope that all the coaches who won the awards this year, in the past and in years to come, they really sit down and give themselves a pat on the back because they’re doing great things and they should just be so proud of themselves, and I think we forget to give ourselves some credit there.”