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Q-and-A : Amber Fryklund on Level 5, Female Coaches & More

By Michael Caples, 11/01/21, 2:45PM MDT


Dr. Amber Fryklund may not be standing behind the bench this season, but she’s still finding ways to stay involved with the game. The former star forward and longtime associate head coach at Bemidji State University spoke on a women’s hockey panel at the USA Hockey Level 5 Coaching Symposium in Duluth this past August, alongside Division I college coaches Laura Bellamy (University of Minnesota Duluth), Bethany Brausen (University of St. Thomas) and Molly Engstrom (St. Cloud State University).

Fryklund, now an assistant professor for the human performance, sport and health department at Bemidji State, remains passionate about helping grow girls’ and women’s hockey and helping those within it.

USA Hockey: How valuable is the Level 5 Symposium?

Amber Fryklund: There are so many great presenters. You get to see and meet a lot of great hockey people. The hockey community is incredible and there are so many relationships that you build within hockey. There were a lot of great presenters this year and a lot of great opportunities for coaches to bring that information back and make their program and community better. I can’t recommend it enough – there is a ton of value at these events.

I got to be on a panel with three other female coaches, and when I was up there talking, I would get so tuned in to what they were saying because there’s just so many hockey people who have so many great ideas and perspectives and philosophies. It’s really cool to see just how coaches really take advantage of those opportunities – and I think there are more women attending now – when they get to learn from each other. It’s pretty cool.

USA Hockey: On that note, having more women involved in coaching, how important is it to have that representation in the game?

Amber Fryklund: Yeah, it’s so important. We talked a little bit about this on the women’s panel, it’s just really important for our female athletes to see female role models in coaching, and even for young boys, there are so many opportunities for them to see females in those coaching roles. Women’s hockey has grown so much, and I think we’re at the time where we hopefully get to see the women’s coaching numbers grow and getting those opportunities to coach. 

These women have been there, they’ve played the game, they understand what the female athletes are experiencing. And so from that point of being able to relate to players, I think it’s very important.

Dr. Amber Fryklund spoke on a women’s hockey panel at the USA Hockey Level 5 Coaching Symposium in Duluth this past August.

USA Hockey: Any advice for females who want to start coaching?

Amber Fryklund: If you want to be a coach, you have to be passionate about what you do. If you’re a college player, take the opportunity to work hockey camps in the summer time, get to know people and build those relationships with other coaches. Make sure you go through USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program and take full advantage of those resources, clinics and events. 

Get involved in your local community. If you can, be a volunteer in your local programs. It’s all about building relationships, getting to know people and getting involved. Some people, they land their dream job right away; others, you have to work your way up, so just take advantage of any opportunity you get to coach. Another piece of advice would be to find someone who you can connect with who will be a mentor to you. Find someone, have those conversations about anything and everything having to do with coaching. It’s a really important piece to have a good relationship with a mentor.

USA Hockey: The growth of the girls’ game, where do you see it going from here?

Amber Fryklund: Girls’ hockey has grown so much with the overall talent level, the skills and the opportunities girls have to play today. You saw the big growth of girls’ hockey in 1998 when the U.S. team won the Olympic gold medal. You saw a big growth then, and now the U.S. Women’s National Team and the Olympic Team do a great job of being ambassadors for the sport and for women in general. The opportunities that USA Hockey provides for the national camps is also something that has grown a lot, and so many players get those opportunities to develop their skill and meet other people from around the country. I think it’s just a big moment for girls in our country right now with all the opportunities that they have. I just see it continuing to grow. 

More on Level 5

USA Hockey: Any advice for youth coaches as hockey season gets underway?

Amber Fryklund: You coach because you’re passionate about the game, and it’s important to bring that sense of passion to what you do. Making practices fun, and not just in the sense of fun, but purposeful fun, so that kids have that opportunity to be in a great environment where they love coming to the rink. They get to work on their skill, they can feel themselves getting better, and their environment is created for them to succeed and have great friendships. It’s an exciting time – every start of the year is an exciting time – and setting that tone at the beginning of the year of what the expectations are is a great opportunity.

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