Like so many other great ideas in 2020, the genesis of the
Women in Sport Speaker Series came from finding ways to pass the time at home during the early weeks of
the COVID-19 pandemic.
While some Canadians binge-watched their favourite shows or read a good
book, Amy de Bree set about to use her newfound free time in a more
“I spent a lot of time watching webinar series and just really trying to
find a way to use the time to better myself, both as an individual and as a
leader and as a coach,” she says. “And what I noticed was that as I watched
all of these webinars, the female voices were really missing.
“I knew that there were some amazing women doing some great things in
coaching and in really all aspects of sport from the research side to the
business side. And so I wanted to give an opportunity for these women to
actually have a voice.”
De Bree is herself one of those amazing women doing some great things in
coaching. In addition to her teaching position at Sir Winston Churchill
Secondary School in Vancouver, she is video coordinator for the women’s
hockey team at the University of British Columbia, and coaches in the
Vancouver Thunderbirds Minor Hockey Association and Vancouver Female Ice
Add in her time with the B.C. Hockey provincial program, which has included
roles as assistant coach at the 2019 National Women’s Under-18 Championship
and as head coach at the 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships,
along with a handful of provincial camps, and de Bree spends an awful lot
of time behind the bench.
“I truly enjoy the game,” she says of why she coaches. “I enjoy approaching
the game from different ways. But even more than that, I really just enjoy
working with kids. I enjoy helping them reach their potential, whatever
that avenue may be. As a teacher, I get to do that every day. And as a
coach, we get a different angle to that.”
With her passion and her experience, it was little surprise – except to de
Bree herself, who says she was shocked to get a call from Team Canada
legend Cassie Campbell-Pascall – that she was selected as the B.C. winner
of the BFL Female Coach of the Year Award in the high performance category.
While the national recognition was great, it was the $1,000 monetary prize
that pushed de Bree to make her seminar idea a reality and move on to the
next step – putting together a list of speakers.
She went to work reaching out to her contacts in the sports world, working
connections in some cases and just relying on blind ambition in others.
“A lot of vulnerability, and just sending out emails to women and saying,
‘Hey, this is what we're doing. This is why we're doing it. We would love
if you would participate.’ It was just a great experience of women helping
women and bringing together some amazing voices.”
In the end, de Bree gathered 18 women across 10 different presentations for
the Women in Sport Speaker Series, which ran virtually from July 20-24. The
line-up included a Q&A with National Women’s Team alumna Vicky
Sunohara, and sessions on being a Black female coach, consent culture, the
advancement of women in coaching and loving your body as a female athlete,
All of the Women in Sport Speaker Series seminars are
available on the official website.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and the push has already begun
towards the 2021 series.
“It was fantastic to hear from the other women who tuned in and watched,
and even the different men,” de Bree says. “One of our top referees in the
area, he watched all of the talks and it was fantastic to see the different
people engaging and kind of thinking through topics and just expanding
their way of thinking.”
De Bree is working closely with Shiayli Toni, a fifth-year forward on the
UBC women’s team who led the Championing Consent Culture webinar,
to push forward and keep the conversation going.
A call went out in late August through social media, and
nominations are being accepted for women who are making a difference in sports. Every month, one deserving
woman will be celebrated on Twitter and Instagram.
For de Bree, the return of autumn means a return to the rink, albeit in a
new-look hockey world thanks to the pandemic. While she navigates her way
through another season behind the bench, she has a little bit of advice for
girls and women who want to follow her path.
“One of the biggest hurdles that women have in getting into coaching is the
time commitment. It can be really tough. And as women, when we come out of
college or we come out of the end of our [playing] careers, we're still
trying to financially set ourselves up. So find a role where you can start
to get your feet wet and then build out that commitment. As soon as you
make your name for yourself, you start to be able to find those roles where
you do get financially compensated, so it makes it a lot easier to balance
the work and life, and still be able to coach and give back to the game.”