Andrea Gibson and her husband decided to take a work vacation in 2009. The plan was to come from their hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, work a little bit, tour around Canada and return home. Flash forward to 2020 and Gibson is still here, a citizen of Canada, a full-time field hockey coach and the winner of this year’s Female Development Coach Award.
A player her whole life, she decided to leave her hockey gear at home when she came over seas and set her mind to other avenues. But despite softly pushing back, everywhere Gibson went, her connection to field hockey community has opened up new opportunities. She never intended to be a full-time hockey coach and administrator but her professional background in education and her athletic experience led her down a pathway perfectly suited for coaching.
According to Gibson, her and her husband didn’t know anybody in Vancouver when she landed. Now she is a valued and trusted member of the field hockey community and is thankful for connections she has built. She can track that first moment back to a day she was walking through Stanley Park in Vancouver.
“I saw the [Vancouver Rowing Club] Jokers playing, and they had a massive sign saying they were looking for players,” Gibson said. “It all kind of snowballed from there. I started playing with the Jokers. And I started coaching and doing some work with all schools on the North Shore.”
And snowball it did. Currently, Andrea is the Technical Director and Head Coach for Sea-to -Sky Field Hockey Club in West Vancouver, B.C. She wove a tapestry of other coaching jobs en route to her current position, including time with the FHBC academy, West Vancouver Field Hockey Club and even ran workshops and sessions in Fernie, BC when she lived there in 2015 and 2016.
Her coaching philosophy has always been about fostering a development environment for young athletes.
“For me it always comes back to community and the difference a coach can make. There are so many more kids at the grassroots level,” she said. “There is so much to teach and so much for them to learn. And you can see how much the sport has helped them.”
Gibson is certified coach a program facilitator. As she reflected on process, she said the coaching pathway in Canada hasn’t been crystal clear over the past decade and hopes that can change.
“To be honest, it was definitely a little difficult for me to understand when I started to get involved. I was piecing together my NCCP courses,” she said. “Looking for and working with mentors in the community definitely helped me along my way,” Gibson said.
Now that she has navigated the NCCP pathway and is a coach and facilitator, Gibson wants to give back and encourage coaches through the pathway and hopefully make clear what is needed for young coaches need to do to take the next step.
“The best place to develop young coaches is through the clubs,” she said. “If we can show them the pathway, they can take their own journey. I hope we can turn more of our [young athletes] into coaches.”
For Gibson, the value she gets out of coaching always comes back to the hockey community. The connections built and the people she meets drive her to grow and give back.
“Field hockey can bridge a lot of gaps. Like I said, I didn’t know anyone when I showed up, but the community accepted me, and I have field hockey to thank for that.”
Congratulations to Andrea Gibson for being the recipient of the 2020 Female Development Coach Award.
The Field Hockey Canada Coach Award program is supported by Gryphon Hockey