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Carla Nicholls

Carla Nicholls
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Name: Carla Nicholls
Sport: Track & Field
Role: Head Coach & Leader of the High Performance Athlete Development Programme
Organisation: Athletics Canada
Nationality: Canadian
Date: Nov 2014

Carla Nicholls is currently the National Event Group Coach for Jumps and Combined Events with Athletics Canada. She has achieved her IAAF Level 5 Elite Coach certification in Horizontal Jumps and NCCP Level 4 Certification in Athletics. Her 22 years of involvement with athletics has ranged from small club development to serving as head coach at the University of Regina, to being a two-time Olympic team coach (2008 & 2010). She is a graduate of the Coaching Association of Canada’s Women in Coaching Apprenticeship Program and is an active ChPC with Coaches of Canada. She was a writer of the New NCCP manual for athletics, a contributor to Athletics Canada’s Long-term Athlete Development program, and is a Master Learning Facilitator for all levels of the NCCP.

 

 

 

My earliest memory is pretending to be at the Olympics in my backyard when I was very young, maybe 3 or 4 years old.  I would pretend to compete and then stand on my homemade podium as my imaginary world would cheer me on! HAHA!

I was involved in every sport you can imagine growing up in small town Saskatchewan.  So it didn’t really matter if it was a boy sport or a girl sport, I gave it all a go.

Diane Jones Konihowski was a Canadian Pentathlete and later Heptathlete.  She was amazing combined events athlete from my home province.  When I got to high school, I was able to travel to the city of Saskatoon where she was to train under her guidance multiple times.  I felt so privileged to be coached by my idol by someone I had admired so much! She could have get me to do anything on the track no matter how hard!

 started out as a Heptathlete (7 events of track and field).  I was lucky towards the end of my career to be coached under an amazing coach named Les Gramantik.  He really opened my eyes to what sport had to offer not only athletes but coaches as well.  Once I came to conclusion that I was not as good as I thought I was in Athletics, Les guided me towards coaching and was a real supporter in my endeavours.  I began coaching with a small track club in my home city of Regina.  Eventually the head coach of that club, Mike Zimmerman and I started up the University program at the University of Regina.  Mike stepped down from coaching after quite a few years and the Head Coach of University of Regina Track and Field/Cross Country was there for the taking!  This new team was not recognized as a full time sport on campus when we first started, so I continued my profession as an operating room nurse to support my habit of coaching!   As time moved on, I worked feverishly to get all my levels of coaching certification with our national program and eventually accomplished certification with the IAAF (international federation) as an Level 5 Elite Coach.

Along this journey I was accepted into the Canadian Coaches Association of Canada’s Women in Coaching Apprenticeship Program.  This amazing 3 year program provided me a mentoring program which consisted of my master coach Les Gramantik and multiple amazing women leaders in sport from all across Canada.  These women pushed me beyond all my comfort levels, but at the same time provided me the moral support to do what I thought could never be possible.  At the end of the program, I was selected to be a member of the Canadian National Team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  This was truly an amazing experience that turned out to be quite successful as I had the honour to work with Priscilla Lopes-Schleps who was our only Olympic Medal at the time.  Soon after this experience, I was hired on full time by my NSO, Athletics Canada, to be the National Team Coach for Jumps and Combined Events.

My coaching philosophy has always been what I can do to bring the best out of every athlete I have the opportunity to work with no matter the age or ability.  Coaching is a privilege and the position of coaching should never be taken lightly.   Coaching provides an opportunity to spend a very small amount of time with athletes no matter where they are in their developmental pathways.  I try to ensure that my presence will provide them with a tool or two to assist them to be the best they can be at that time and hopefully in their futures as they tackle the rest of their lives.  Long term athlete development is a priority in my approach when working with developing athletes.  My biggest challenge is convincing parents and other supporters of the athletes that this approach will have the best results in the future!

I am so proud of so many moments along this journey, I have been extremely blessed and am truly grateful for all my experiences.  If I had to pick one, it would be the development of the University of Regina Team.  When I took over the program, there were 17 athletes, 3 who were females.  Our team was last in the conference.  When I left the team to pursue a career with my NSO, I had built the team up to over 90 athletes on the roster and 50% of them were females.  The year I left, the team one the conference championships several years in a row!

I have had a great journey in the world of athletics and I am so grateful for every step I have taken and for every mentor I have worked with.  My hopes are to continue to learn and continue to push the boundaries of whatever comes my way.  Mentoring other young female coaches and sport leaders has become a passion of mine.  I want to give them the tools to be the very best that they can be, just as so many amazing leaders did for me.

Oh yes!  In every aspect of my sport from coaches, technical leaders, officials and high performance positions.

I have been surrounded by amazing colleagues, most who are men.  My male counterparts challenged me, which in turn made me stronger.  There are certainly times when there were some uncomfortable and sometimes comical moments.  I have quite often lead national teams with a team manager who was male. We work very well together.  Interestingly though, when dealing with the meet directors and those who perceive they are in positions of power who do not know us, they will almost always speak directly to my manager and assume he is the head coach.

I think we have done a fantastic job of identifying the barriers that women have as they try to move up to leadership roles within sport.  We now need to put solutions into action.  Giving women the tools to smash down road blocks and hurdles should now be the priority. The best people to do this are women themselves!  I cannot overstress the importance of mentoring.  There is no greater learning tool then a mentor who has success in the leadership world of sport and who can guide our young girls and women.  Sport is the one thing that the entire world seems to understand and can cooperate together to achieve greatness.  Having more women in leadership positions in sport can only make the world a better place, not only in sport, but in every day life.

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