In 2015, Jenn Beagan traded her tape measure and tracing paper for a clipboard and a whistle when she quit her job as an architect and became a full-time field hockey coach.
Originally from Calgary, Beagan moved with her family to the Vancouver area when she was 10 years old and immediately fell in love with the sport. She played in the provincial and regional programs and even trained with the junior national program. She then went on to study architecture at Kent State where she played four years of varsity field hockey on a full-ride scholarship.
During her years in the U.S., she was exposed to top-level coaching and even tried her hand at coaching at summer camps in Pennsylvannia. For Beagan, getting a sampling of coaching and some coach education training lit a flame that would grow into an inferno later in life. After graduation, Beagn moved back to Vancouver and started practicing architecture as a profession. It was at that time that Beagan found herself at a crossroads of what to do with the passion she had for field hockey now that she had stopped playing full-time.
“There’s a point in time where I stopped being a full-time athlete. I went through a period where I didn’t know who I was because I identified as an athlete for my entire life,” she said. “Having a little taste of what coaching is and how you can still have all this energy and passion for the sport and still apply it, helped me with the transition. It Helped me reframe my direction.”
In 2015, Beagan quit her architecture job and became a full-time coach. Being a career coach is a rarity in field hockey, but she makes it work between coaching FHBC Academy & provincial/regional programs as well as guesting in at clubs around the Lower Mainland.
Beagan coaches at a West Vancouver academy session in September, 2018. File Photos/Field Hockey Canada
According to Beagan, she started taking coach education programs and National Coach Certification Program (NCCP) courses in 2005 but her education in coaching stalled out in the mid 2000s. Despite continuing to coach provincially and regionally and enjoying the process, she was yearning for more coach education and improvement opportunities.
“Coaching full time is a profession of passion. You have to really love it to get a really good outcome.”
Last year, Field Hockey Canada piloted and since then, ratified, the Competition Development course. Coaches from across the country have started to enroll and take courses. Ray Lewis, Amy Hollingsworth and Raquel Seguin from Ontario and Janet Heppell from Nova Scotia have all reached “trained” status. Beagan has taken the pathway one step further and at the 2018 National Championships in Toronto was evaluated in order to achieve certified status. After her successful evaluation, she became Field Hockey Canada’s first ever “Certified” Competition Development coach within the new pathway. Currently she is working to finish her Advanced Coaching Diploma and is giving back by becoming a Learning Facilitator for coach education courses in BC.
Beagan has a lot of positive things to say about going through the coaching pathway in Canada. She talks especially fondly about her experience in the coaching diploma program through the Canadian Sport Institute.
“The courses, modules and conferences aren’t field hockey specific,” she said. “There are a lot of sports represented and the coaches all come from different backgrounds. The support from the coaching community, actually sitting down with other coaches and learning from other people’s experiences in their sport is really valuable.”
Although she knows that it is not feasible for all coaches to go through the pathway as comprehensively as she did, Beagan still urges young coaches to seek out development opportunities and receive proper instruction when possible. “I work with a lot of athletes that are now coming back and starting to coach, but there is much more to coaching than simply knowing a sport. It’s so important to get more coaches into the pathway with certification.”
According to Susan Ahrens, Field Hockey Canada’s Director of Hockey Development, coach education has a value at every level from volunteering parents all the way to international coaches. The new Field Hockey Canada coaching pathway prioritizes accessibility and is designed to enable coaches at all levels to access it.
“Community courses are accessible through provincial organizations,” she said. “These are perfect for athletes coming back to their club to help coach or even parent volunteers for local spring leagues. If others like Jenn have aspirations to make a profession out of coaching, this new extended pathway will offer a great foundation for them to do so.”
For Beagan, the steps she took to professionally develop as a coach has allowed her to get more reward out of her coaching career. Beagan hopes to see more people follow in her footsteps and become comp-dev certified coaches in the near future. When asked about what her coaching future includes, she said that coaching high performance youth and junior athletes is what she enjoys the most and she wants to keep doing that.
“The kids that age are like sponges. They suck in all the information you give them,” she said. “I see a lot of growth and a lot of development and watching them throughout that time is very rewarding.”