With such a storied coaching career, one would imagine Lynne Beecroft was always destined to be a leader. But she sees her coaching career as having something of a fairytale beginning.
The former Olympian joined up with her former teammate Nancy Mollenhauer (then Charlton) in 1984 as a coach for the University of Victoria’s women’s field hockey team.
“I was a super shy person, I did not think standing in front of a group of 16 to 20 athletes and telling them what to do would be in the cards for me,” said Beecroft.
“I think she (Mollenhauer) saw something in me that I could bring to the Vikes team that maybe they hadn’t had to help them sort of get over the hump because they had some really good teams, but they hadn’t won a national championship. I didn’t quite know what that entails. But I thought that it would be an opportunity. One of my sort of goals in life was to make a difference, and so I could make a difference in the lives of the athletes that I coach.”
And make a difference she did. Having never won a national title prior to 1984, UVic Vikes women’s field hockey team went on to be crowned Canada’s best 15 times, all under the tutelage of Beecroft.
The Vikes women’s field hockey team captured their most recent title and their fourth consecutive U SPORTS Women’s Field Hockey National Championship in a 2-0 series sweep over the York University Lions on the UVic Field Hockey Turf on Nov 5.
Much has changed during Beecroft’s 39 years in the dugout. The team has gone from playing on a field that wasn’t in such great condition, Beecroft admits, to one of the best in the country.
Technology has also gone through a paradigm shift. Beecroft says it has its place in sports – she recently got the hang of texting to keep in contact with her athletes after email went out of style, but thinks that sports as a whole has become too focused on screens.
“Now I watch ice hockey and the NHL players are sitting on the bench, looking at the iPad, as to why they didn’t do such and such. To me, they’ve missed the point. The point is, is that they are not in the now. So they’re not watching the actual game and seeing what actually is happening. They’re thinking about what they did in the past.”
Beecroft said she focused on helping players be more intuitive, teaching them the skills and helping them understand their role on the team. Unlike in sports movies, Beecroft’s strengths don’t lie in standing up in front of a crowd and making big speeches. She connects with them off-the-field.
“There are lots of people that would have just sort of off the cuff, they can just go on and on. I still aspire to have that ability but it just is not in my nature, I don’t think. I had a hard time talking at my own kitchen table when I was growing up with my family. So it certainly wasn’t in my nature. But I think that I connect well enough with athletes on an individual level and then what I try and do is collectively bring all those individuals together.”
Over her time Beecroft has coached a wide array of successful athletes – in multiple instances seeing multiple generations of field hockey family play for her team. But she said her proudest moments come when seeing those she’s coached put down their sticks and go on to succeed beyond field hockey.
“Any sport is just a microcosm of life. So the things that we can teach them, life skills wise, that they can go off and have success in whatever they do outside of sport. That makes me probably more proud than the successes that we’ve had on the field.”
Now she’s retired, Beecroft is looking forward to some well-earned time off, hiking with friends and golfing once the weather improves.
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