Female Leadership Project: Q&A with Cindy Klassen

Speed Skating Canada is currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 Female Leadership Pilot Project, an exciting gender equity initiative that will see five speed skating clubs from across the country implement a tailored 6-week training program for female athletes aged 12-16 years old who are new to the sport.

Clubs interested in applying for inclusion in the Female Leadership Pilot Project are asked to do so using the online form below. The application deadline is September 13.

This targeted programming will be delivered by local female coaches, who will receive guidance and mentorship from six-time Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen, the Project Lead responsible for working alongside Speed Skating Canada staff to organize and oversee the program.

Read the Q&A below to find out why Cindy Klassen wanted to get involved with the Female Leadership Pilot Project, the importance of female coaches and role models, and her transition from high performance athlete to coach.

Q&A

Tell us why you wanted to get involved with the Female Leadership pilot project.

There are many reasons why I wanted to get involved with the Female Leadership pilot project!  To name a couple, I know that females drop out of sport at a higher rate than males, and I’m hoping this project will inspire young females and show them how fun sport can be.  I hope all the females participating will be encouraged to stay involved in sport, either at the athlete or coaching level.  I also wanted to get involved because I am grateful for all the years I had in the sport and how much it afforded me.  I hope that I am able to make a positive difference in the lives of the females involved, and that the impact from this project will be far reaching into all areas of their lives.

Tell us why it is important for young female athletes to have female coaches and role models.

When young female athletes have female coaches and role models, I think it inspires them to believe that they can do it too!  In 1998, our male and female Olympic speed skating team did really well, but it was watching the females, and in particular, Catriona LeMay Doan and Susan Auch, that really inspired me and helped to instill the belief that I could compete for Canada one day, just like them.    

Tell us about a female role model (athlete, coach, volunteer) that had an impact on your speed skating career.

I was fortunate to have many great female role models, so it’s hard to pick just one, but when I first moved to Calgary and made the national team, Moira Marshall (D’Andrea) was my coach and she was such an inspiration to me!  She had been there before, as she had been an American Olympic speed skater, so I really looked up to her.  I learned so much from her, but the biggest impact she made on my career was that she believed in me, and that really gave me hope that I could one day be an Olympian too.

Tell us about your transition from high performance athlete to coach.

A few years after retiring from speed skating, I was approached by the Manitoba Speed Skating Association to see if I’d be interested in coaching at the Canada Games in long track, and I jumped at the opportunity!  It was so meaningful to get back into the sport, and really special to work with my home province where my career in speed skating began. 

Tell us what you love most about coaching

The thing I love the most about coaching is seeing the joy on an athlete’s face when they’ve accomplished something they were working towards.  It could be skating a set of laps just right, setting a personal best in race, or maybe just mastering something with regards to technique, but I learned quickly that it’s so rewarding to watch athletes strive for a goal and then see that big smile when they achieve it.