Breakthrough Winners 2002


Ottawa, ON, . . . The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) has honoured five individuals and organizations with its annual Breakthrough Awards. The awards recognize exceptional accomplishments that break through traditional barriers and pave the way for girls and women to participate in sports and physical activity at every level. This year’s winners, who range from people involved with community level programs to people working at the national level of elite sports, were recognized for their activities in the year 2002.

Patricia Lam – Individual Provincial/Community Award
In 2001 the Ontario Girl Guides took on the challenge of developing an alternative sports-based program for girls. The goal of Girls in Motion (GIM) was to provide girls with an opportunity to play sports, to develop skills, to have fun and to learn the values that good sportsmanship teaches. As the Chairwoman for the pilot project in 2002, Pat Lam of Ottawa, ON took on the challenge of promoting sports and active living lifestyles as fun, esteem-building opportunities where the emphasis was on participation rather than winning. She not only ran events in her own community, she also counselled other participants around the province on how to create, set up and run local events. Although the provincial pilot project has concluded, Pat has challenged herself to a five-year pilot project in her own community. She continues promoting sports and active living to girls and women in Guiding. As a result of her efforts, 2500 members took part in winter sports activities last past year, and 900 members earned the Core crest. Soccer, baseball, volleyball, skating, and tubing were introduced to girls in Sparks, Brownies, and Guides along with team building activities. Pat Lam has brought the concept of Girls in Motion to the Girl Guides, and in doing so has given birth to the new life of Guiding.

Shelley Coolidge – National Individual Award
Involved in the female game of hockey as an administrator for over 15 years, Shelley Coolidge’s love for the game has brought her to the forefront of women in sport. Her background as coach, player and referee illustrates her dedication to and unique understanding of the game, which she now brings to her staff role as Manager, Female Development Programs with the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) in Calgary, AB. An excellent “ambassador” for the CHA and the sport, her experience as a volunteer gives her a solid understanding of the varying responsibilities of a volunteer-driven organization, and the ability to develop strong relationships everyone involved. She takes great pride in the programs that she is involved in or has helped to develop, and in her desire to improve hockey at the grassroots level for male and female players alike. As a former referee (now a certified level 3 official), she not only supports player development, but also referee development, especially for young girls. In her “spare time”, Shelley also finds time to coach female hockey and has done so at various levels. In addition, as a former player of high calibre, she has served as a spokesperson for initiatives such as “Heads Up” (a provincial concussion prevention program for hockey). In 2002 she was named an Assistant Coach of Team Alberta for the 2003 Canada Winter Games in May 2002 and maintained her role as Head Coach of the ACAC’s Mount Royal Cougars. A role model, and a leader, Shelley is truly making a difference in the lives of young hockey players.

Prince Edward Island Girls & Women in Sport Committee – Organization Provincial/Community Award
Until recently there had been no government portfolio, budget, collective group or individual working in the area of women and sport in Prince Edward Island (PEI). A small but dedicated group of leaders created a steering committee to address these issues. Their research of Provincial Sport Organizations showed a tremendous inequality in the participation rate of females compared to males. Most significantly they noted that female participation was largely confined to the traditionally female sports of ringette, gymnastics, figure skating and synchro. There were also lower participation rates in coaching, officiating and administration. This survey led to the creation of the Prince Edward Island Girls and Women in Sport Committee (PEI GWS), with the goal of increasing the opportunities and participation rates of women in both traditional and non-traditional sports. Although still in the initial stages of development, the PEI GWS Committee has already held a celebration brunch to highlight some of the outstanding accomplishments of girls and women from across PEI. They have created a website to encourage increased participation which has been well visited since its inception. The committee is currently developing a three-year plan with all of its stakeholders. The plan will establish priorities to increase the opportunities and participation rates for girls and women choosing sport and physical activity throughout PEI.

Imperial Oil – National Organization Award
From grassroots programs such as Esso Fun Days to the prestigious Esso Women’s national Championship, Imperial Oil is committed to supporting female hockey at all levels. A long-standing and proactive partner with the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) for many years, Esso’s recent focus has been to assist the growth and development of female hockey across Canada. The company has implemented and maintained several programs to ensure female hockey grows. Since 1997-98 Esso and the CHA have partnered to offer a free, fun introduction to female hockey. The program offers both on and off-ice components that focus on an introduction to the game, including the basic skills and sportsmanship. It has been delivered to over 50 communities and has touched more than 7,000 participants, coaches and volunteers since its inception. In the 2001-2002 season alone, over 35 events were hosted across Canada attended by over 1,300 participants. Esso Fun Day has contributed significantly to the increase in registration across Canada for the female program. The Esso Schools Program enables school-aged children the opportunity to attend domestic championships and international hockey games, with the goal of encouraging the growth of the sport of hockey. Esso has provided over $250,000 in funding in the past five years for this program. As the title sponsor, Esso provides an opportunity for the top female hockey teams from each province to compete for the coveted Abby Hoffman Cup at the Esso Women’s National Championship. Through their support of this women’s championship, and its additional programs, Esso has been instrumental in fostering the growth of female hockey in Canada.

The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association – Marion Lay ‘Herstorical’ Award
The Marion Lay Herstorical Award honours the long-term positive influence of an individual, group or organization whose herstorical contribution has broken down barriers to equal participation in sport and physical activity. The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) has been a driving force behind the rise of female hockey in Canada for many years and continues to make strides towards enhancing the game to the next level. The organization has many well respected individuals who not only promote the game of hockey but also administer the appropriate programs, clinics and events to make the game grow.

The formation of the OWHA in 1975 proved to be the catalyst for provincial, national and international success. For the first time, there was a unified body with a clearly defined mandate, the growth and development of hockey for girls and women. It held the first Women’s National Hockey Championship in Brantford, ON in 1982. While the on-ice competition nationally showcased the incredible talents of women hockey players from all across Canada, the event also provided another important opportunity for the sport. Following the success of the event, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association voted to add the Female Council into its male bastion. The Female Council’s role is to promote the sport, develop leadership and ensure the interests of female hockey, both grassroots and elite, are heard at the national level.

Following up on the success of the National Championships, the OWHA successfully hosted the first Women’s World Hockey Tournament in 1987. This event is considered the major turning point for women’s hockey. The enthusiasm and skills of the players, coaches, officials and volunteers resulted in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) adding a Women’s World Hockey Championship to their events listing, and ultimately to the inclusion of Women’s Hockey in the Winter Olympic Games. The inaugural IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship in 1990 hosted by the OWHA in Ottawa was an overwhelming success. Ontario has now hosted the Esso Women’s National Hockey Championship six times, and the IIHF Championship Women’s World Hockey four times.

Through a provincially unified, collective voice, the OWHA promotes, provides and develops opportunities for girls and women to play female hockey in Ontario. Its commitment to excellence and to the growth of female hockey is a blueprint for other organizations to follow. The work of the OWHA continues to be unmatched anywhere in the world.

CAAWS established its Breakthough Awards in 1986. They honour individuals and organizations whose accomplishments push the limits and enhance the participation of girls and women. Recipients of the awards since then represent a virtual who’s who of Canadian women and men who have challenged traditions and empowered girls and women to participate more fully in sport and physical activity.

This year’s awards will be presented at appropriate gatherings across the country, and will be presented by CAAWS Board and staff members.