U of C AXES PAID WOMEN’S COACH

Mar 6, 2013 – The University of Calgary has abolished its women’s soccer head coaching position in an attempt to balance the books, making it the third women’s varsity team to go without university funding for its coaches.

Last week, head coach Matthew Shepherd was told the Dinos women’s soccer team will no longer have a paid head coach. The team will now be coached by volunteers.

Women’s rugby and field hockey, as well as men’s soccer, already follow a volunteer model aimed at lowering costs, said Ron Wuotila, the University of Calgary Dinos Director of Athletics.

It was a difficult decision that was budget-based, Wuotila told the Herald.

“We can’t afford that particular position at this time,” Wuotila said.

“Our next step is that we’re looking for a volunteer coach to coach the team and we’re making efforts to improve our engagement with the community, within the soccer community, along the way.”

Wuotila would not say how much money the move would save Dinos athletics.

A number of other varsity teams — including hockey, football and basketball — continue to use coaches in paid positions, Wuotila said.

Given the current momentum for women’s soccer after the Canadian national team brought home Olympic bronze last summer, and the country’s recent successful bid to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, this may not be the best time to scrimp in the coaching of our amateur female athletes, said Karin Lofstrom, the executive director of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity.

“Soccer right now is in a big boom stage,” Lofstrom said from her office in Ottawa.

“As we see so many teenage girls dropping out of sport because they don’t think it’s the cool thing, well, soccer right now is pretty cool for girls. How many girls are dreaming of being Christine Sinclair or Erin McLeod?”

University sports are a high-performance setting that helps to keep young Canadian talent in Canada, Lofstrom said. And qualified coaches are often what entice athletes to attend certain schools, she added.

“We’ve seen successful female athletes because we’re giving them good coaching. If we want to continue to see our Canadian athletes develop, we have to continue to give them that.”

But across the board, university coaching is struggling financially and programs have to fundraise more and more, often leading to tough decisions, Lofstrom said.

Madeleine Loughery, the manager of the Calgary Women’s Soccer Association, declined to comment on an internal decision at the University of Calgary. Speaking more generally, however, Loughery said it is important to ensure that young athletes have the best possible training.

“You want them to play at the level they are capable of playing, and you want them to be nurtured and fostered as best as possible.”

The budget cut was announced quietly last Thursday without a news release because the Dinos see it as a personnel issue, said Donald McSwiney, the director of communications for the university’s kinesiology department. The Dinos do still fund the women’s soccer team, McSwiney added.

The women’s soccer team starts training for its new season in August. The team’s conference obligations and the core investment required to do so will not be affected, Wuotila said.

“In a very difficult circumstance, that’s the good news,” Wuotila said.

Shepherd, who was named the first ever full-time coach for the Dinos women’s soccer team in May 2011, was once a semi-professional player in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Shepherd could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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