VIERUMÄKI – She’s coached Team Canada to two Women’s World Championship gold medals, and two Olympic gold medals, the latter coming in 2010 on home ice.
She also has another Olympic gold and two World Championship gold medals as assistant coach, but even with all her success, Melody Davidson says that she feels almost more pressure in her role as a member of the IIHF High Performance Camp leadership team, and lead mentor.
“I’m here looking after the coach mentors. We set up a curriculum, a schedule and set up a standard and level of expectation. The coaches’ job is then to execute the plan, and mine to monitor, troubleshoot, and assist as needed. I’m also available to give feedback if needed,” she says.
“I build the outline for the on-ice and offline sessions, the mentors fill in the blanks. Then the coaches come in and they start to work with their staffs. Most staff sizes around the world are 4-5 people, but here they have to deal with a bigger group, teamwork and guidance, and keeping 6-7 people up to date. And that can be a challenge. It’s somewhat easy to keep yourself organized but it’s not as easy to do it with a group of people,” she adds with a smile.
The pressure comes from the fact that as one of the most prominent figures in international women’s hockey, she’s carrying a heavy load for nurturing, not just one team, but the game itself.
“Definitely those of us who’re organizing and mentoring here feel a responsibility for growing the game. I almost feel more pressure in this position than I ever did as a coach,” she says.
“We’re still fighting ways of life and in many cases society’s views,” she adds.
But step by step, the game gets better, as the people working with the game get better and grow. At the 2012 High Performance Camp there are six coach mentors who work with the coaches in each of the six teams. The good news is that finding those six isn’t too hard.
“We created a list of top-end people who we think can help grow the game. Six are here but we had a list of probably 50 people at first,” says Davidson.
Halfway through the camp, Davidson is pleased with what she sees. Things are going according to plan, and according to her expectations.
“There’s always some resistance to the leadership. People that come here are well-educated and experienced and at times they get defensive, but it’s our job to open their viewpoints and give them options. There’s been both resistance and embracing of new ideas. I hope that after the week they feel it’s been worthwhile and that they’ve got a lot of new tools,” she says.
She also says that the level of play is better than just last year, and that, for example, the players’ skating has improved.
“We still have to work with goaltending, but the level of play is better than last year, and that’s what we want to see. In years to come, not next year or the year after that, but in ten or 20 years, we’ll have a number of teams than can challenge for the gold medal any given day,” she says.
That’s where the aim is. Davidson has her eye on the ball, but the target is not right here, right now.
“We’re in this together, and whenever you get people who share a passion together, there’s a great chance to network and make new friends and that helps to grow the game, too,” she adds.
“The women’s game is getting better, step by step. This is not a sprint, and it never will be. We’ll see success in small bits every day, we’re not going to just one day wake up and see 100 countries playing hockey, so we should enjoy the bits of success we see here,” she says.