When Danny Kerry and Kate Richardson-Walsh started their respective hockey careers with the Great Britain and English National Teams, the program was not as strong and not as well-resourced as they are today. Richardson-Walsh reflects on the fact that they minimal resources, and had to make do, all while juggling work and school. They see similarities to this with the Canadian Women’s National Team. Now, two top performers and program builders lead the Canadian Wolf Pack towards Pan American Games.
Kerry coached the Great Britain and England Women’s National Team to unprecedented success between 2005 and 2017, including an Olympic bronze in 2012 and an Olympic gold in 2016. He then led the GB men’s team to the FIH Pro League Grand Final in 2019. When stepping away from the English coaching environment, he was the winningest coach in UK hockey history.
He joined the Canadian Wolf Pack this spring with goals of system building on and off the field as well as putting together a world class side for upcoming international competitions. Kerry said his experience working with Team Canada has been challenging and rewarding, noting that success comes when the team supports each other and enjoys the process.
“The athletes are smart, they can quickly understand and apply information to the pitch,” Kerry said. “In order for the team to be successful on the field it needs to stick to our principles of play, our playing identity, it is the bedrock of understanding and performance. Off the field, as well as on, it will be about continuing to enjoy belonging to a special group of people who understand each other and are there to support each other,” he said.
“There are challenges whatever the environment, it is finding the opportunities in those challenges that I enjoy. Where I feel Canada, as a nation, is ahead of much the world is the respect and understanding that is shown towards the profession of coaching,” Kerry said.
Danny Kerry leads a training session at Rutledge Field. Photo/Blair Shier
Richardson-Walsh retired from international hockey seven years ago and has since coached in the Women’s Premier Division at Hamstead & Westminster Hockey Clubs. Her work with the Canadian Wolf Pack is her first international coaching position. Given her extensive experience as a team captain for GB and her coaching experience since, she said she feels comfortable behind the bench but also has that connection to the on-field experience.
“I can put my athlete hat on at times and really see the player’s perspective. I understand what they are feeling and what they are going through. I’ve stood in their shoes,” she said. “Now I can also put my coach’s hat on and bridge some of those conversations. It’s really good fit.”
She notes that her existing relationship with Kerry allows them both to focus on their strengths and support each other in a comfortable way. “I know Danny as a coach really well and he knows me. We’re able to get the best out of each other in that sense.”
For Kerry, he sees Richardson-Walsh’s strengths in connecting with the athletes. He said that the dynamic will change now that it’s co-coach instead of coach-player but he expects a good match as they hurtle towards their first major competition as Team Canada coaches.
“ Kate has many qualities and I hope she will have an equally long and illustrious career as a coach as she has had as a player. The challenges of coaching are myriad and ever changing. I enjoy bouncing thoughts back and forth with Kate. My strong sense is that we are a good blend as a coaching duo.”
Kate Richardson-Walsh works with the Wolf Pack at a July training session. Photo/Blair Shier
For both Kerry and Richardson-Walsh, the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago will be their first Pan Am competition behind the Wolf Pack bench. Where the European hockey qualifiers and Pan Am hockey qualifiers differ is that the European tournament is strictly a hockey competition whereas the Pan American Games is a major multi-sport games. Both coaches mention the excitement that swirls around an Olympic multi-sport qualifier. Kerry said he’s specifically excited about the Pan Am hockey competition as it has been improving over the past decade and now represents one of the toughest continental regions.
“On a personal level, I am really excited about going to my first Pan Am Games. I am sure it will have a very different feel to those multi-sport games I have enjoyed before such as Olympic and Commonwealth Games,” he said. “Within the women’s game the Pan Am Games probably represents the second toughest pool of matches outside of the European continent. I am looking forward to enjoying the challenges of these tough matches, embracing the pressure of Olympic qualification, and ensuring we remain focussed on what we can bring and the strengths in those.”
Richardson-Walsh echoes those sentiments as she looks forward to October’s competition.
“Pan American hockey is thriving on the women’s side. It’s really exciting to be a part of the Canadian women’s program at this event,” she said. “To come to a Pan American continental tournament is new for me and really exciting for me. A multi-sport event of this quality. How exciting is that.”
Looking forward, Richardson-Walsh said that this group is building towards a better future for Canadian women’s hockey. This entails connecting to the success of the past and leaving the Team Canada jersey in a better place for the next generation.
“We are trying to connect to the illustrious past that Canadian women’s program has had. The Canadian program has really performed at the top level [World Cup silver medallists in the 1980s]. We can see that this is possible for us,” Richardson-Walsh said. “But we also want to think about where we leave the shirt. What about the Wolf Pack of the future. We want to leave a legacy. The team is really tuned into that and really connected to that.”
Both Kerry and Richardson-Walsh hope to channel their successful experience and lead the Wolf Pack to a top finish at the 2023 Pan American Games and moving forward into 2024.
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