The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) is proud to announce the Female Apprentice Coach Program (FACP) has officially been extended for its 15th season. The CCAA is pleased to reveal an additional six apprentices for the 2019-20 season:
Canadore Panthers, OCAA
Apprentice: Cassandra Rivard
Mentor: Andrew Nicholson
After playing five years of varsity Women’s Volleyball for the Canadore Panthers, Cassandra Rivard joined the team’s coaching staff in 2018-19 as an assistant. She will have an increased role alongside Head Coach Andrew Nicholson this season as an apprentice in the FACP.
“The CCAA Female Apprentice Coach Program will help to provide the opportunity for Cassie to grow her knowledge and ability in coaching and in volleyball,” said Shawna Nielsen, Director, Student Experience and Success at Canadore College. “Cassie’s growth will also help Canadore in succession planning as we build our coaching staff for future years.”
It promises to be an exciting season at Canadore, which will host the 2020 OCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship in February.
“It is an optimal time for Coach Nicholson to mentor Cassie in experiencing coaching from building the team through to championship,” said Nielsen.
Last season, Rivard oversaw the serve receive defence for the Panthers and provided her knowledge and experience. This season, she hopes to continue building on her coaching skills.
“I want to not only assist in the girls’ varsity volleyball development, but I plan to use coaching to improve in my networking and leadership skills,” said Rivard.
With 40 years of coaching experience, Nicholson is a veteran coach who can provide a very rich experience for his apprentice.
Having worked mostly with young elite female athletes, Nicholson believes there is still a plethora of older male coaches dominating the coaching ranks at both the youth and post-secondary levels of competitive volleyball. He believes it is the responsibility of all competitive level coaches to develop the next generation of young coaches.
“By increasing the amount of young, qualified female coaches, we are giving the younger generations of elite female athletes the opportunity to learn from true role models,” he said.
Dawson Blues, RSEQ
Apprentice: Aurélie Leblanc-Florent
Mentor: Trevor Williams
After graduating from the University of Bridgeport, where she attended on a full basketball scholarship, Aurélie Leblanc-Florent has devoted the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Dawson College.
She’ll continue to work alongside her former Head Coach, Trevor Williams, this season as an apprentice in the FACP.
“I know exactly the culture that has been created within his program and what it means to ‘Bleed Blue’,” said Leblanc-Florent, who was a member of the Blues from 2011-14. “I can relate to them as a player but also as a young woman that walked in their shoes not too long ago and went through a lot of similar things that they are going through.”
Leblanc-Florent, who was named team captain in each of her final seasons at Dawson and Bridgeport, currently coaches at a high school and loves helping young players develop.
While at Bridgeport, she completed community service and volunteer work at several elementary schools and in 2016, she also worked at a basketball camp in France.
“I had the opportunity to start coaching shortly after my playing career was over and I fell in love with the profession of coaching and the challenges that it brings,” she said. “I believe in the importance of having strong female role models as coaches for these young girls.”
Williams, the 2018 CCAA Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year, is entering his 20th season with the Blues. He deems Leblanc-Florent has the necessary tools to inspire and motivate young student-athletes.
Meanwhile, a fellow assistant coach at Dawson has moved into a head coach position at another institution, which will result in additional responsibilities this season for Leblanc-Florent.
“She’s a perfect candidate to positively influence young women within our community,” said Williams. “Aurelie can provide the necessary leadership skills that will help young girls persevere and develop to their true potential on and off the court.”
NAIT Ooks, ACAC
Apprentice: Megan Belcourt
Mentor: Todd Warnick
Todd Warnick, head coach of the NAIT Ooks Women’s Basketball team, has previously served as a mentor in the FACP. His current lead assistant, Cassidy Taal was an apprentice with the Ooks during the 2017-18 season.
This year, Warnick will mentor another former player, Megan Belcourt.
“Each opportunity to participate in the program has been a tremendous experience to watch some fantastic young women grow into tremendous leaders,” said Warnick, who has coached at NAIT since 2010.
Belcourt has worked with the Ooks as a volunteer assistant coach the past two seasons and Warnick believes the opportunity to increase her role and help her grow is a significant one.
“Megan has been invaluable in working with players in one-on-one sessions this past year and expanding her role to the tactical and technical side of the game will be one I will relish and one I believe she will excel at,” he said.
Belcourt believes the variety of her experiences gives her a unique perspective that will aid in her apprenticeship at NAIT this year.
And in looking back at her playing career, Belcourt has come to realize the significant impact her assistant coaches made on her.
“My first year of college would have gone drastically different if I did not have an assistant coach who was willing to put in so much time and effort on my individual game,” she said. “As a young player, this had a large impact on me.”
Belcourt is anxious to share her passion and knowledge of the game. She will also work hard to give student-athletes feedback and attention in games – something the head coach doesn’t always have the time for.
“After playing for Todd for my last two years of eligibility, I believe that I will be able to compliment his coaching style while learning what it takes to become a successful head coach in the CCAA,” she said.
St. Mary’s Lightning, ACAC
Apprentice: Montana Romeril
Mentor: Steve Shoults
Montana Romeril achieved incredible success during her four seasons with the St. Mary’s Lightning. She is the team’s all-time leader in points scored, assists and steals. Romeril, the former Women’s Basketball team captain, also led St. Mary’s to an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) championship and two appearances at CCAA Nationals.
Now, she will join her former team at St. Mary’s University as an apprentice in the FACP. Romeril will be mentored by her former Head Coach, Steve Shoults.
“Montana is an exceptional, driven, caring and passionate young woman who is a leader among her peers and a role model for younger generations,” said Nathan Ruff, Sports Manager at St. Mary’s University. “She is eager for this opportunity to continue to learn about the game, to develop her skills as a coach and be a leader and role model for females in sport.”
Romeril is currently an assistant coach for the girls basketball team at her former high school and has coached at youth basketball camps in Okotoks, AB, since the summer of 2016.
She hopes to provide an inspirational voice to the student-athletes at St. Mary’s and share her knowledge of the game for individual and team improvement.
“I have been in the position these players are currently in,” said Romeril. “I believe I can help and advise them in managing and balancing their school and basketball as a student-athlete.”
She will work closely with Shoults, who has been with the Lightning since 2014 and had an immediate impact on the program and its success.
“With being part of this program for four years as a player and the success that came from it, I know exactly what my mentor coach wants and expects,” said Romeril.
For his part, Shoults is looking forward to promoting female coaches through this unique program offered by the CCAA.
“It is important for young female athletes to have mentors within their sport and ones that are coaches,” said Shoults. “This program is a medium for coaches like myself to help increase the number of females becoming coaches within our sport.”
Apprentice: Emily Prevost
Mentor: François René
Prior to winning a pair of Women’s Basketball National Championships with the University of Windsor Lancers (U Sports), Emily Prevost’s career kickstarted with the Vanier Cheetahs in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).
Prevost, a dominant forward for the Cheetahs from 2010-13, will return to Vanier College as an apprentice in the FACP. She’ll be mentored by Head Coach François René, who enters his third season with Vanier.
Mai-Anh Nguyen, the Student Life Advisor in Athletics at Vanier College, coached Prevost in each of her three seasons with the Cheetahs.
“I am excited to have Emily back as a coach,” said Nguyen, who also serves as the CCAA Women’s Basketball Convenor. “I believe she will be a great coach for our program and for all the young student-athletes.”
Prevost was fortunate to play for several successful female coaches along the way, including the highly respected Chantal Vallée. During her time with Vanier and Windsor, Prevost was a captain for a combined five seasons.
“Those five years gave me the responsibility of leading dozens of other women in and outside of a basketball setting,” said Prevost. “I learned that being a leader on a team meant much more than teaching skills or plays, but it came down to being a role model for women and empowering them so they could flourish in life after their careers were over.”
Having played varsity basketball, Prevost always envisioned herself coaching one day at a similarly high level. The CCAA apprenticeship will allow Prevost the opportunity to study and learn the intricacies of the more advanced skill sets and strategies of coaching.
Meanwhile, René is excited about the opportunity to mentor Prevost and believes receiving proper guidance and mentorship provides up-and-coming coaches with a strong foundation to have a long and successful career in the world of athletics.
“A lot of young coaches get discouraged or lose the passion for coaching,” said René. “Having a mentor provides stability and helps young coaches see the bigger picture behind our work.”
For Prevost, the long-term goal is to one day become an asset to a Women’s Basketball program at a college or university.
“Coaching at Vanier became an obvious choice to me since my time there as a player had a profoundly positive impact on me, and my hopes would be to give these new players that same experience,” she said. “I believe in the importance of having young women surrounded by confident women coaches, so I believe my presence on this coaching staff will further benefit that aspect.”
NAIT Ooks, ACAC
Apprentice: Melissa Liew
Mentor: Sinead Cheah
NAIT Ooks Head Coach Sinead Cheah, a former CCAA female apprentice herself, will mentor a past standout student-athlete in the FACP this season.
Cheah, a CCAA apprentice during the 2013-14 season, has been at the helm of the Badminton program at NAIT since 2016. She epitomizes the objective of the FACP, which acts as a pathway for apprentices to one day develop into head coaches themselves.
Now, the 2018 CCAA Badminton Coach of the Year will look to give back to a former student-athlete.
“I feel that Melissa will excel within our program as we have several elite level players that she will be able to relate to and players who already respect and admire what Melissa has done in her college badminton career,” said Cheah, who earned several provincial and national championship titles as a student-athlete herself in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
Liew won three CCAA medals with the VIU Mariners of the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) – Women’s Singles silver in 2013 and 2016 and Mixed Doubles silver in 2015. She has also earned CCAA Academic All-Canadian and CCAA National Scholar Award honours.
In her junior playing days, Liew won multiple provincial triple crown titles and was ranked first in Manitoba. She also earned a bronze medal in Women’s Singles at the Canadian Senior Nationals, represented Manitoba once at the Western Canadian Summer Games and twice at the Canada Winter Games.
Meanwhile, Liew has also already garnered some coaching experience. She was the Assistant Badminton Professional at the Winnipeg Winter Club, where she coached group lessons and reestablished a program that introduced young kids to badminton. And while at VIU, Liew taught private lessons, coached local high school badminton teams and ran weekend skills camps.
Under coach Cheah, Liew hopes to learn how to better educate and train technical skills, respect in sport as well as both physical and psychological fitness at a competitive level.
“This opportunity will allow me to help provide the same heartfelt and lifechanging experiences that I myself received, and to encourage athletes to join a sport that may help with their education and real-world experiences,” said Liew.