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Notre Dame Hounds Hockey Coach Mira Trebilcock Enjoys Glory on the Gridiron

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Currently a member of the coaching staff with the prestigious Notre Dame Hounds program, Mira Trebilcock’s love of sport took on an exciting new dimension in 2015. In addition to her coaching duties, Trebilcock joined the Regina Riot of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League.

Having competed in hockey and soccer with Lake Forest College, an NCAA Division III school, Trebilcock amassed 32 points in women’s hockey play with the Foresters. On the soccer pitch, she logged three goals as a midfielder, while starting 15 games as team captain in her final season. In addition, she was a three-time All-Academic in the All-Midwest Conference.  

During her final hockey season (2011-12), her final NCAA Division III goal took place in a January 14, 2012 match against Wisconsin-River Falls, while her final point was an assist during a February 26 tilt with the St. Scholastica Saints. As a side note, she also worked as an intern with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association in Illinois.

The chance for the native of South Porcupine, Ontario to compete with one of the WWCFL’s elite teams was an opportunity to rekindle her love of athletic competition. Getting the opportunity to compete in every game this season, her efforts culminated with the Riot winning their first-ever championship.

With three female teams of varying age levels at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, Trebilcock maintains a busy schedule. Not only do the coaches work together with each team, coaching at summer camps results in a year-long occupation. Of note, she also serves as the Assistant to the Director of Development, her work as a coach looks to positively develop players’ skills and strengths.

Among the players that Trebilcock has coached in recent years, it was a great point of pride to see Hounds star player Jaycee Gebhard named to the Canadian contingent that competed at the 2015 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds in Buffalo, New York. Going to RPI this autumn, Amber Rennie is another star player that has benefited from Trebilcock’s tutelage.

Oswego State’s Olivia Ellis was another notable player that Trebilcock coached, earning a nod to the 2015 ECAC West All-Rookie Team, while leading the Lakers with 27 points. Two other up and coming players that have been coached by Trebilcock include Olivia Hanson and Abbey Nimegeers.  

Although Trebilcock learned about the Riot from one of the Hounds’ coaches, she was reluctant at first to advise her players that she was gracing the gridiron. Despite the fact that there have been two Women’s World Football Championships (in 2010 and 2013), along with a female football league in Atlantic Canada that has existed for 12 seasons, the concept of female football is still nascent in the sporting conversation.

“I did not tell the players at first because I was even nervous about the whole thing. They know I am athletic and enjoy competition – I am always joining in the drills or scrimmages at hockey practice so I do not think the fact I was playing a sport surprised them.

Yet I think the choice of sport may have been a little shocking, as I am not the most aggressive or the strongest person around.  Once they started to find out, some were pretty surprised to learn that a women’s tackle football league existed.”

Taking into account that the Riot has such a supportive and encouraging culture, those sentiments were mirrored by the Hounds family, easing any nerves that may have been prevalent. Considering that Daniella (Ella) Matteucci is a Hounds hockey alum that is playing in baseball at the 2015 Pan Am Games, Trebilcock’s efforts with the Riot helped to strengthen the message of empowerment for women in sport,

“Everyone, students and staff have been extremely supportive! It is pretty special to see such great support from a small community, coming to games and supporting the Riot. I am extremely thankful for all their support since my family is back in Ontario. 

It has been a great opportunity for me to show the students the adaptability and versatility of being a multi-sport athlete (since that is something we highly encourage).  It is also important that female athletes know there are opportunities for them to compete at an elite level following university. It is a great opportunity to get involved in the community, to represent Notre Dame, and associate them with other athletic organizations.”

As a side note, Trebilcock is not the first WWCFL competitor with women’s hockey experience. Julie Paetsch won four WWCFL championships with the Saskatoon Valkyries and earned a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds. An exceptionally talented hockey player with the University of Saskatchewan, she competed for the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno during the 2013-14 campaign.

One of the veteran players for the Australian national women’s ice hockey team, Georgia Moore emigrated to Canada several years ago, competing in the now-defunct WWHL. Selected by the Inferno in the 2014 CWHL Draft (becoming the first Australian-born player selected in said draft), she competed with the Okotoks Lady Outlawz during their only WWCFL season in 2013, earning the nickname, the Aussie Clipper.

Although Trebilcock was considered a “rookie” with the Riot, the reality is that her hockey and coaching backgrounds made her an exceptionally talented and important rookie. Employing said backgrounds into the newest chapter of her athletic career, there were definitely values from the two that made the transition to football much smoother,

“I immediately connected to coach Shawn McCall’s theme of unity – he engrained that within the team during the first weeks and I think whether you are a coach or a player on any team, football, or hockey  – the idea of everyone being on the same page is essential to achieve the goals at hand. Like most teams I have played on, the leadership team and the vets, played a huge role in setting the tone for the season.

As a coach, I could appreciate some of the ‘struggles’ that existed at the beginning of the season. With so many rookies, and so little knowledge in the fundamentals and understanding of the game, I tried to as receptive as I could.”  

One of Trebilcock’s most admirable qualities during the season was her continued commitment to learning. With the maturity to admit that she was not familiar with many aspects of the sport, it was a key turning point in helping her become more comfortable with the game. Taking into account that she played in every game with the Riot, such assiduousness yielded remarkable dividends,

“I am not going to lie – I did not know much about football, you can even ask the coaches, my terminology is fair at best, even now. In hockey your supposed to anticipate the play, move and pass to open space, use angles – football has fairly relate-able skills in those regards.

Similarly, like crossovers in hockey, football has its own unique footwork technique, which was a little easier to pick up with my soccer background. The most noticeable difference (besides the tackling) was the strategic play involved. I found a whole new appreciation for the amount of strategy and thinking involved – with each blitz, coverage, special team attack etc.  

The Defensive Coordinator, Morgan Bunce and I would actually try to relate different football plays and scenarios to hockey plays to better understand the purpose of running a certain pattern or being a specific position. It seemed comical at first, but it actually really helped grasp, the why of situations.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated” 

Images supplied by Mira Trebilcock 

Photo credit (football): Wanda Harron Photography

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