The playing coach

Still on the ice, Kezmarska learns behind the bench

10.01.2017
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Barbora Kezmarska, who still plays in the top Slovak league, behind the bench of the Slovak U18 women’s national team. Photo: Janos Fodor

BUDAPEST – Barbora Kezmarska from Slovakia is driven by her love and passion for the sport of ice hockey, to be successful both on the ice and behind the bench.

The member of the Slovak U18 women’s national team coaching staff is ready for a real breakthrough as a coach and would like to add to her success as a player.

It is not a big secret that women do not have the same opportunities to make a living in hockey as a player or as a coach compared to men. There is a limited number of players who can make a living of ice hockey and fully focus on their beloved sport. The situation for coaches is similar. There are no female hockey coaches in men’s pro leagues while many male coaches can be seen on the national team staff in women’s hockey.

Barbora Kezmarska is one of the few who are lucky enough to be able to be a coach and also still play top-flight hockey in their country. She plays for Spisska Nova Ves in the Slovak Extraliga while being in her second year as an assistant coach with the U18 women’s national team.

“I am an assistant coach on the coaching staff that is responsible for the defenceman. I set up drills for practice and also focus on the communication on the bench,” explains Kezmarska about her role with the Slovak team.

Kezmarska started playing in the top division in Slovakia at the age of 14. After an injury that sidelined her for a season the idea of getting into coaching crossed her mind.

“I went to university in Bratislava and at the time I was playing for Slovan Bratislava where the federation was trying to get all the players together on one club team. I got injured one season but during the rehab I started to work with kids and the federation gave me a chance to go to some of the IIHF Women’s High-Performance camps in Vierumaki.”

She has represented Slovakia at four senior Women’s World Championships – two of them in the top division – took part in the Olympic Qualification for Sochi 2014 and played for her country in a number of other international tournaments.

Kezmarska has been both a full-time player and coach for the last number of years as she works with both male and female players as well. Currently she working with youth players, along with helping out the team she plays for.

“This is the fourth season where I have been the assistant coach of the women's team that I also play for and now for the third season I am also coaching a U10 team.”

When talking to Kezmarska, one easy picks up on the idea that hockey is not just her job but a lot more than that. “I am still gaining the experience that is needed to be a successful coach. I still have the passion to play hockey,” she goes on to say with a smile on her face why she enjoys working with kids so much.

“I would love to be a full-time coach, I really love working with the kids. The kids are always honest, they are smiling or you see when they are disappointed. They always go with all their heart.”

In the long run she feels that she could be a role model for Slovak girls and show that one can still stay involved in hockey and make a living out of it as an active player and even after that.

“I think in women's hockey it might not matter if the coaches are men or women. But I think it is a big challenge for women to get into coaching after they stop actively playing. However, the IIHF has started to take the proper steps to support female coaches,” she says.

Just like anywhere else in the world, women’s ice hockey is taking steps forward in Slovakia as well. “When I started to play hockey there was no U18 national team, but it has been changing lately, and now we also have a U16 team that we are working with and I am on the coaching staff as well. We took part in the Budapest Winter Classic two weeks ago.

“I know I am on the right track but I still have to keep moving up step by step,” says Kezmarska when asked where she thinks she can be in five or ten years from now. She also mentions that she wants to prove she is a good coach and not just get a spot on a coaching staff because they need a female coach.

She has represented Slovakia at the senior level as well as been on the coaching staff of the U18 and U16 national teams. It could be a special year for her if she manages not only to coach at a World Championship but also play in one as well in the same season.

The Slovaks had a good start in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group A in Budapest with a 4-0 win against host Hungary and a 3-2 victory in another neighbouring clash against Austria. Today the tournament in Budapest continues.

Click here for the schedule and statistics, and here to watch the live stream.

SZABOLCS ZAVODSZKY

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