2017 wu18c blackmore feature

Back behind the bench

10 years after she wore the colours of Team Atlantic at the National Women’s Under-18 Championship, Kayla Blackmore returns as head coach

Katie Brickman
November 3, 2017

Hockey was and still is Kayla Blackmore’s first love, so it isn’t much of a surprise to find her sharing her passion for the game with top young female players in Atlantic Canada.

The head coach of Team Atlantic at the 2017 National Women’s Under-18 Championship, the Fredericton, N.B., native is making a little bit of tournament history.

In 2007, Blackmore was a member of the Atlantic contingent, scoring twice in five games to help her team reach the bronze medal game at U18 nationals, falling to Manitoba at that event in Kitchener, Ont.

When she led Atlantic in its opening game Wednesday, she became the first alumna of the National Women’s Under-18 Championship to return as a head coach. A number of former players have come back as assistants – Kelsie Graham (Saskatchewan) and Cassea Schols (Alberta) fit that description this year – but none have ever served as bench boss.

“Coaching was something I always imagined myself doing. I’ve always loved the game and I’ve made sure I was always learning different faucets of the game,” says Blackmore. “This was something instinctual to me.”

Blackmore grew up playing hockey in New Brunswick, and being able to represent the Atlantic region at the 2007 tournament was a proud moment for her.

“When I played at the under-18 nationals in 2007, I was 16 years old and it was my last major event provincially,” she says. “I had committed to play at St. Thomas University and I knew my hockey career was going to end after university.”

Unfortunately, a serious head injury during her freshman season put her on the sidelines for 11 months, but Blackmore remained an important part of the Tommies, even if she couldn’t contribute the way she wanted.

“I had a difficult time; it was hard not being with my teammates,” she says.” Even though I wasn’t able to be on the ice, I was still involved in the game. My coach encouraged me to stay involved in the game.”

Blackmore stepped into coaching early. At 17, she was behind the bench in the minor hockey system in Fredericton. She knew when she finished her five years at St. Thomas, she wanted to coach at the high-performance level.

“I was really fortunate growing up to have so many amazing coaches that has an impact on my life,” she says.

Blackmore continued to coach while she completed an Arts degree and Education degree at St. Thomas, eventually taking on roles with Hockey New Brunswick and serving as an assistant with Team Atlantic in 2015.

It was through those opportunities that Blackmore built her understanding of the game behind the bench.

“I was fortunate as a young coach to be surrounded by very knowledgeable coaches, including Troy Ryan, who is now with the National Women’s Team,” Blackmore says. “I think it has been very valuable experience for me to go through all those steps.”

As Blackmore returns to the National Women’s Under-18 Championship, it was easy for her to reminisce about her experience in 2007 and what it means to compete at the same tournament.

“Anytime you get the opportunity to represent your region, it is really exciting,” she says. “It is a great honour to represent your region. I feel like that experience has helped me prepare to be a coach because I understand the emotions my players will go through and I will be able to provide insight and motivate them.”

Blackmore currently serves as the head coach at Rothesay Netherwood School in Rothesay, N.B., where she also works as a teacher. As special as it is for her to return to nationals as a coach, it means just as much to be able bring four of her Rothesay Netherwood players – goaltender Shaylin McFarlane, defenceman Kyla Bent, and forwards Sydney England and Tiah Scichilone.

“I’ve had the opportunity to watch them grow up to become good hockey players, but also respectful and driven young women,” Blackmore says. “Having the opportunity to hand them that sweater brings back a proud moment for me. I think they have embraced this moment.”

Scichilone is grateful to have Blackmore as a coach, and is learning as much as she can from her.

“I really look up to her and I think she is deserving of this role because she loves what she is doing,” Scichilone says. “She is such an inspiring coach and she has strong beliefs in teamwork. She is always helping us become stronger as a team.”

Team Atlantic hasn’t won a medal since 2006 and Blackmore has set the bar high for the team.

“We made it clear to our athletes and staff that we are going there to win a medal.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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