by John Bruyea
Deanna Iwanicka is currently underway in her rookie season as the first full-time Women’s Hockey head coach in program history, but who exactly is our new head coach?
Coach Iwanicka came from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, where she built its hockey program from the ground up as the school’s first full-time head coach of the women’s hockey team. Iwanicka’s previous experience is oddly similar to the task that she faces at the University of Windsor.
Iwanicka has a track-record of building successful programs. She inherited a three-win team at NAIT and turned the Ooks (yes, the team’s nickname) into a serious contender. In her decade at the helm it the Ooks won three straight titles and Iwanicka captured two conference coach-of-the-year awards too.
Now in Windsor for a few months with the season underway, Coach Iwanicka is focused on building another winner.
During the 2017-18 season, the Lancers won just five regular season games and a substantial reversal of fortunes might not be realistic. Rather, this season’s goal is to develop a program that can sustain success.
“Our vision is to be a championship program, different than a championship team, different than a championship season,” stated Iwanicka.
Iwanicka has stated that this transition may take some time, but many are confident in her abilities. Michael Khan, Dean of the Faculty of Human Kinetics and part of the hiring committee, sees Iwanicka as a winner but understands that it takes time to create the culture necessary for success.
“She plans carefully and is developing a culture of winning and this will take time to take effect,” explained Khan.
Khan also points to Iwanicka’s drive, ability to develop and recruit players as strengths of the new Lancers coach. While some may find the task of turning around a program daunting, Iwanicka is excited.
“I’m excited about building something. I’m excited about the potential of it. I’m excited about the opportunity to see people leave here and go ‘that was the best five years of my life,” smiled Iwanicka.
BEST, or Better Every Single Time, is a philosophy Iwanicka stumbled upon during her Masters at the University of Alberta and has ever since stuck with her. Iwanicka explained her hope of passing this passion on to her players this season.
Among her players is Alix Reiter. Reiter previously played under Iwanicka at NAIT for two years prior and followed her coach to Ontario. Reiter has seen the growth in her own game playing for Iwanicka. Reiter says she’s a completely different person and a player from her first year at NAIT.
“I know Deanna is going to make me a better person at the end of the day,” stated Reiter.
Reiter also emphasized that her coach focuses on the person, not just the player, and has been guided to becoming a better leader. While laughing, Reiter adds that Iwanicka is a “tough coach,” but explained that Iwanicka pushes players in a “good way” and it’s all from the perspective of growth.
“At the end of the day I don’t think we’re here to teach hockey, I think we’re here to teach life skills,” Iwanicka says. “I’m here to make people more prepared and better people, hockey is just our way of doing that.”
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