IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program
Initiated on July 1, 2011, the IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program (AMP) is an ambitious program that creates mentorship relationships between national team coaches and athletes and members of the women’s hockey elite who have achieved the sport’s highest successes.
The aim of the program is to provide a resource network of hockey experts with the sole purpose of building the sport. Through their experiences at Olympic Games, World Championships, and other high level women’s hockey programs, the Coach Mentors and Athlete Ambassadors can offer words of wisdom to the many passionate people involved in the women’s game around the world.
The Mentors and Ambassadors
As perennial nations in the final games of the top tournaments, Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States were approached to provide some of their experts to be involved in the program. The time commitment is a considerable one and the task not easy, and the AMP team is a list of incredible, enthusiastic people in addition to their hockey success.
Led by Melody Davidson and Hayley Wickenheiser, the 36 mentors and ambassadors work as four person teams with two coach mentors and two athlete ambassadors assigned to each nation. They will work with both the present senior national team as well as the future of the nation in their Under-18 national program.
Using the IIHF World Ranking, the next group of nations were approached with the offer to join the program. The following nations accepted: Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland.
IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program Press Release – 16 June 2011
July 1, 2011 will mark the start of the most comprehensive IIHF women’s hockey development initiative so far. Mentors and ambassadors from the top four countries will assist women’s programs in nine other countries during two and a half years.
The IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program (AMP) will create partnerships between some of the world’s best women’s hockey coaches and athletes and countries that are striving to develop elite women’s hockey programs. All of the Athlete Ambassadors and Coach Mentors bring tremendous experience at and most have won multiple medals at IIHF World Women’s Championships and/or Olympic Games.
The world’s most accomplished women’s hockey player, Hayley Wickenheiser, has joined the program in a leadership role working directly with all the Athlete Ambassadors. She will play a key role in setting the direction for the Ambassadors and provide direct support to them throughout the program.
By having Wickenheiser communicating with all of the Ambassadors, it will allow her vast experience and knowledge to be shared with all the nations.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the Athlete Ambassador program because I feel it will make a direct and immediate impact in helping players from countries 5-14 gain more information and resources to improve their game,” said Wickenheiser. “Having access to World and Olympic Champions is invaluable information and will be an important step in continuing to improve and grow women’s hockey around the world.”
The ambassadors and mentors come from the top four world ranked teams – USA, Canada, Finland and Sweden. The nine nations who will participate in this program are China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland. Each of these countries will be assigned two Coach Mentors and two Athlete Ambassadors to build a relationship throughout the term of the program (which includes seniors and under-18).
For example; Former Canadian Olympic coach Shannon Miller will be a mentor for Russia, ex-NHL player Doug Lidster will be assisting the Czech Republic, while Finnish star Emma Laaksonen-Terho will be an ambassador for Kazakhstan.
During the program term (from July 1, 2011 till the end of January 2014) there will be an expectation of communication every 2-3 weeks between the coach mentors & ambassadors and the coaches of both the senior and under-18 national programs.
“The best way to become successful is to have the opportunity to learn from someone who has already been successful,” said Tanya Foley, the IIHF’s Women’s Program Manager and the one responsible for the launch of the AMP.
“By assigning the same team of mentors and ambassadors to a country for a period of 2.5 years, the teams that will qualify for Sochi will have a resource that no team entering an Olympic Games has previously had,” said Foley. “We believe this will help teams be prepared for Olympic-level competition in a very positive way.”
These factors were considered when determining the assignments: Language skills, previous positive relationships, specific needs of a country, and also ensuring that still active athletes and coaches were not assigned to a country their own national team would be playing against in the 2012 World Women’s Championship.
By focusing on the top 14 world ranked teams, it is the intention of the IIHF to provide the greatest boost to the nations with the most likely chances to qualify for Sochi 2014.
“While we do not believe that an equal balance will be seen by 2014, the AMP program will be one of the most effective initiatives in bringing the nations as far as possible by that early date,” said Foley.
Once the program is running smoothly, the IIHF will look at ways to expand into other nations who wish to improve or build their women’s program. Later it will also be possible for the next group of countries to mentor IIHF members below them on the world ranking and to share their knowledge that they will be gaining through the initial stage of AMP.