There is a variety of factors that influence a team’s or individual athlete’s success; commitment, diligence, and a simple passion for the sport name a few.
However, specific personality traits and motivation can only take you and your team so far; without someone organizing practices, spearheading games, and creating the right plays, you’re not going to go far or win many medals. This is where coaches come in.
Coaches in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and other Canadian university sport leagues are critical to a team’s success and, in order to reach such high levels of success, tackle an array of responsibilities outside of just creating plays and fine-tuning play.
University coaches need access to enough monetary, technical as well as personal support by fans and spectators, in order to facilitate the ideal environment, leading athletes and teams to the highest level of success.
However, all of these factors, which are bountiful in the National College Athletics Association (NCAA), are scarce in CIS sports.
When it comes down to how to motivate, inspire, and guide athletes every coach has a different style. For U of T’s fastpitch head coach Craig Sarson, the main difference between the style of American and Canadian coaches is mentality.
“In the States, I find people are more open to different concepts, and teaching methods,” explains Sarson.
“In Canada I find that coaches are trying to stay inside some Canadian style, to benefit all of Canada instead of the individual athletes,” he adds.
U of T’s assistant swimming coach Linda Kiefer concurs, and explains that an athlete in the US is viewed as an employee of the NCAA, as many of these athletes receive full scholarships from their school. Meanwhile in in Canada, education is the top priority.
“Really, if you swim in the states, swimming is basically number one. You are being paid to swim,” explains Kiefer, using intercollegiate swim teams as an example, which can often apply to all NCAA teams.
The monetary support NCAA teams receive as opposed to CIS teams is also another factor which can influence the effectiveness of a coach.
“In the NCAA the coaches and sports programs are able to accomplish a lot due to their resources on the whole,” says Sarson, who is also quick to note that comparing Canadian and American sport funding models is comparing apples to oranges.
“With the different scholarship policies, and attendance figures for NCAA sports, the finances are not in the same ballpark, so it’s not fair to compare the two,” he concludes.
“Money makes a big difference,” highlights Kiefer, when referring to how great of an impact resources make in the success of a CIS team.
“The biggest difference is in travel to meets; being able to hire specialists like strength trainers, nutritionists, biomechanists, therapists etc. The more money you have the more resources you can pull in,” she adds.
Kiefer also makes the point that the budget for the team, not necessarily the salary of an individual coach, can have a tremendous impact on the amount of medals and trophies won.
“We [Canadian coaches] are not doing this job for the money… we do it because we love the sport,” she explains.
“But if you have more money in the teams budget, you can afford to do more things with the team; you can travel more places, race different people, buy different products for athletes to use in training etc. … it just makes things a lot easier.”