Katie Yuris shattered another glass ceiling on Saturday as the Trail coach received BC Hockey’s Ernie Gare Award for Coach of the Year.
“I was so flabbergasted, I was so happy,” said Yuris, who coaches the Pee Wee Girls West Kootenay Wildcats hockey team. “These last couple years, being head coach and taking on new responsibility and role with my coaching staff, it was such an honour to hear that and it was so rewarding.”
Since its inception in 1979-80, Yuris is just the second woman to win the award as Christine Gardiner received the honour in 1996. She also joins 2012-13 recipient Ken Koshey and 1999 recipient Mike Mondin as the only Trail coaches awarded the honour.
“To be the first female since 1996, that’s even more of such a barrier for me. I feel like a barrier has been broken for myself. When I started coaching I was labeled as a female coach, just to accept that award as a coach and be recognized in the male and female realm is overwhelming.”
The 25-year-old forward played all her minor hockey in the West Kootenay as a Wildcat and began coaching at age 15. She played under knowledgeable local coaches throughout her hockey career, and began her foray into coaching under D’Arcy Caron, a key mentor.
“He pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, try new things,” said Katie. “I didn’t necessarily want to do those things but it made me the coach I am today.”
After playing hockey at college in Calgary, Katie returned to Trail where she coached Bantam for a year, then along with her sister McKayla and dad Terry Yuris, revived the Pee Wee West Kootenay Wildcats.
In just two years the program has flourished. This past season, the team skated to its first tournament victory at the Kamloops Pee Wee Rec Tournament, then claimed silver at the Hayley Wickenheiser Female World Hockey Festival in Vancouver, and hosted the BC Pee Wee Championships in March.
In Katie’s nomination, McKayla eloquently captures the passion that her sister puts into coaching and her ease in relating to young players.
“Hockey isn’t all about winning, Katie has made it her mission to empower young women and build life skills that they can use in their day-to-day life,” wrote McKayla. “These traits include being a good teammate and member of the community, having good sportsmanship, setting goals for themselves, and possessing discipline and respect. Above all else, she makes these girls know that gender is not a barrier for them in hockey and in life.”
For Katie, earning such an honour wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of the on-ice coaches, management, and parents who help at the tournaments, practices and games, including coaches Terry Yuris and Roseanne Wallace, practice assistants Kyle Borsato and Dave Eccles, managers Courtenay Jones, Clare DeWitt, Mark Buckley and Mike Conci, and of course her co-coach and sister McKayla.
“With my sister, I couldn’t do it without her, just having that support. This award is as much hers as it is mine,” said Katie. “And it takes an army clearly, because there’s 18 females on our team and you know what? I can’t get through to everyone. So it’s important being a coach, not being prideful, and surrounding yourself with the best people you can be around, to bring out your best … this is proof I guess.”
In her acceptance speech, Katie was humble and gracious; she recognized the support the team receives from the community, thanked her many family and friends who attended the award ceremony, then offered up some poignant advice in her closing remarks.
“This award is for my 15-year-old self that would have never dreamed this big,” Katie said. “Set your goals high, and don’t stop ‘til you get there.”
Katie plans to continue to rebuild the female Wildcats program until Greater Trail minor hockey has teams at every level. After winning the Ernie Gare award at such a young age, the Re/Max realtor also intends to elevate her goals, and hopes to one day coach at the provincial and national levels.