2020 21 nwt judy riege

Looking at leadership

Canada’s National Women’s Team is going outside the box with leadership coach Judy Riege as it works to build on its culture on and off the ice

Jason La Rose
January 29, 2021

Leadership has never been an issue for Canada’s National Women’s Team.

From St-Louis to Brisson to Campbell to Wickenheiser to Poulin, Team Canada history is dotted with strong women who led the way on and off the ice.

But leadership is more than just a letter on a jersey. For Judy Riege, a renowned leadership coach and educator who runs Connected Leaders, “leadership is a mindset, not a position.”

Riege, who says she is in the business of “communication, connection and curiosity,” has been working with the national team program since 2019, a relationship that continued this week at the BFL National Women’s Team Training Camp, presented by Sobeys.

“As athletes, we're really fortunate when we come to these camps and we're surrounded by the best people in their field,” said national team veteran Laura Stacey. “Judy is exactly that. It's just another option, another tool we can add to our toolbox. To be able to combine her knowledge with the tools that we've already been working on with [mental performance consultant] Kim [Thompson] and our coaching staff, I think it's amazing.

“We're really lucky to have her be a part of that process and keep pushing us forward and finding ways to get uncomfortable and get outside of that comfort zone, to see where and how much better we can actually be.”

After her workshop at camp, talked with Riege to find out more about the ideas she brings to Team Canada.

HC: What is your connection to hockey?

JR: I'm a fan. I was a parent of children playing hockey. I think what I am is a proud, proud Canadian, and hockey, sport in general, has been part of my life and I believe it is a really great way that we're able to connect, as communities and as a country around a game.

HC: How did you first get involved with Hockey Canada?

JR: My work with Hockey Canada actually goes all the way back to even before [the] Sochi [Olympics in 2014] and doing some work with Mel Davidson around strategic planning and thinking long-term about the women's program. There was a bit of a break and then I met [head coach] Troy Ryan in late 2018. I had an opportunity after working with the coaches to work with the players, really around this idea of leadership, high-performance teaming and, in particular, connecting neuroscience and emotional intelligence to how we show up in relationship to each other and how we optimize that space.

HC: What are you trying to achieve with the workshops?

JR: When you think about what great teams do, they have an unbelievable foundation of trust. And when you think about trust as a concept, what we don't always appreciate is how neurobiologically connected we are, and that trust is really the foundation of how safe we feel with each other. So my work has always been in the space of leadership and team performance at a high level, unpacking the things that sometimes we don't pay attention to – our words, the way we ask questions, how we listen, how we communicate with each other, with our coaches, and coaches to athletes. What am I thinking? What am I feeling? How am I showing up? What's my impact on others? But also being able to build understanding with each other that we're all different. When we understand those differences and build stronger relationships, what we're able to accomplish individually and collectively is that much better.

HC: How has the buy-in been from the players and staff?

Unbelievable. I walked into this going, ‘Okay, what do I get to do with these high-performance athletes and how can I add value to the program?’ So any of the conversations [prior to the presentations] was ‘How do we build on the culture?’ They're trying to create the focus around what they're trying to accomplish on the ‘red’ days, when they're not all together. The work that I do is like a piece of Lego, and certainly the level of engagement, the feedback and the conversation in the rooms that we've co-created together has been nothing short of magical.

HC: How important is it for these athletes to have different ways to compliment their skills on the ice?

JR: Emotional intelligence is my ability to notice what's going on for me in the moment, what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling, where I need to go, what I need to do. And it's also the ability for me to read you, where are you, what do you think and feel. And then together, that's the third angle, how do we put that all together in the moment? And it's all about in the moment. When we all focus on that idea of how are we going to win together in relationship to each other, especially if you're on the team, and that the enemy is not on the team, it's actually on the ice. I think that's the shift. I think so often we think that high potential is thinking I can be amazing on my own, the reality is we're better together, in all facets of our life and how we do that is building the simple, but not easy, steps to actually fostering what I call an ecosystem of potential. So that as I build my potential, I'm also actually building yours.

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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