VFIHA and UBC’s Unique Player Development Program

Written by: Liz Montroy (Vancouver Midget C1 Assistant Coach)

The University of British Columbia (UBC)’s varsity women’s ice hockey program has been consistently
ranked at the top of the U Sports rankings over the past three seasons. Now, this successful collegiate
program has paired up with the Vancouver Female Ice Hockey Association (VFIHA) to create a one-of- a-
kind female minor hockey development program.

Starting last September, VFIHA’s Bantam and Midget Rep teams have attended weekly on and off ice
sessions at UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Arena. These sessions are run by UBC’s coaches and
players, providing the VFIHA teams with regular access to high level female role models.

“We wanted that sort of female-to- female interaction,” said UBC Assistant Coach Dom DiRocco. The
majority of the coaches at the sessions are female and there is a ratio of one coach to every three players
on the ice. “[The VFIHA players] have a strong female role model to look up to and to work with them on
honing their craft and their sport.”

The development program’s on ice sessions involve drills working on individual skills such as skating,
puck control and shooting in a team setting as well as small group stations that further develop technical
skills. The off ice sessions are tailored to each team’s specific needs, and have involved both skill work
and conditioning. VFIHA’s goaltenders also receive specific instruction from one of UBC’s three

Through these sessions, VFIHA’s Rep players have an opportunity to not just improve their own skills
and connect with female role models, but to learn about what is involved in being an elite athlete.

“In most instances these younger players are aspiring for post-secondary opportunities to play the sport
they love,” said UBC Captain Celine Tardif. “Having mentors that fall right where their end goal may be
allows them to see what is required to achieve this level of performance and the skill development helps
them along their way.”

This unique program also benefits the UBC players, like Tardif, as they get an opportunity to give back to
the community and to develop valuable leadership and coaching skills.

“They’re learning the work to rest ratio, they’re learning leadership, they’re learning how to coach within
their own career,” said DiRocco. “They become better athletes and if they’re able to give to the 13 to 18
year olds, it empowers them.”

The partnership between VFIHA and the UBC women’s ice hockey program has many benefits for both
sides, as well as for the growth of female hockey in British Columbia.

“These opportunities are important for skill development, for players to see that the skills and drills they
are working on can still be improved on at any and every level,” said UBC player Madison Patrick. “It is
also important to build relationships to continue to inspire younger generations to not only participate, but
excel in the sport of hockey, and strengthen the women’s game.”

For more information on the VFIHA, please visit http://www.vancouvergirlshockey.com/