School Profile – Dawson College Women’s Hockey Program
As a coach at the University level in women’s hockey, I am often asked my advice on where the best place for their daughter to go to school and where to play. My answer is almost always exactly the same; find a place that offers a great education as well as good coaching in an environment that will prepare your daughter to play at the next level and showcase your daughter to various University coaches. One program that I feel achieves this goal of strong academics, coaching, and athlete preparation is the Women’s Program at Dawson College.
Located in downtown Montreal, Dawson College has been offering classes since 1969 and is currently the largest CEGEP in Quebec with approximately 10,000 students attending. Athletics has been a big part of the Dawson lifestyle for many years. The women’s hockey program started in 1998 as a club team and joined the CEGEP league in 1999. In the beginning wins were hard to come by, but as time progressed and recruiting became a priority, a program of excellence was slowly being built. As the program continued to gain support, a new coaching staff was brought on board. Derek Mott and Andrea Lambton came to the Dawson program in 2002 and were later joined by now current head coach Scott Lambton in 2003.
Fast forward to 2012, and the Dawson program has become one of the powerhouse teams in the Province. They have successfully produced 6 players who represented Canada at the U18 level, 8 players representing Canada at the U22 level, and 5 players representing Canada at the Senior National Level, two of which; Catherine Ward and Marie-Philip Poulin won Olympic Gold Medals in Vancouver in 2010. A number of Dawson players have also represented Quebec at the U18 provincial level.
In addition to the National and Provincial levels, there have been over 35 players graduate from Dawson and successfully continue their University careers as varsity athletes at a number of NCAA and CIS programs across North America. I think it’s fair to say that the Dawson Women’s Hockey program understands the importance of combining academics and athletics and has helped numerous student athletes through this process.
In a discussion with Head Coach Scott Lambton, I asked him what was the difference in the program in recent years compared to the early years. He replied “There were a couple of things that we did in order to make a big change from 2003. One of the first things was that I went out and actively recruited. Before this, Dawson took whoever came their way”. In order to make a difference in any athletic program, recruiting is essential. Scott and the rest of the Dawson coaching staff understood this and made it their priority to get out, be visual in the rinks and explain to players and parents what they could do to help develop each player that came to Dawson. “We were lucky in my first year of recruiting that we landed a few big names that everyone knew; Catherine Ward, Stephanie Denino, and Alyssa Cecere, explained Lambton. “Having them come to Dawson helped to change the minds of other people who would never have given Dawson a thought. It was almost like if it’s good enough for them there must be something special going on”. Not long after other big names such as Ann-Sophie Bettez, Karel Emard, Vanassa Gagnon, Alex Garcia, Laurianne Rougea, Marie-Philip Poulin and current Dawson star Cassandra Poudrier were proud to put on the Dawson jersey every weekend to represent their school.
As these and many other great players started to choose Dawson, other things had to change as well. Lambton discussed that in the early years, players didn’t really expect to win. “There was a culture of losing, almost as if it was ok to lose. So we had to change the mindset of that first group of players and let them know that losing was not ok. They were used to losing and grew accustomed to it. We spent a lot of time changing their perception and getting them to strive for more”.
Over the years, Scott and the rest of the Dawson’s coaching staff worked hard to provide the players with the best development opportunities both on the ice and in the classroom. As more and more top level players were choosing Dawson as their place to play, a more complete development model was needed. Practice times were added as well as support staff of nutritionists, off ice trainers and yoga instructors.
Currently, the team practices 3 times a week (1.5hours each) and the player’s also complete one dry land training session each week. They have allocated one ice session per week specifically for skill development with specialist Greg Orsini while their off ice training consists of plyometrics, agility, balance, speed and core strength activities. “We focus a lot on making our players faster, stronger and more agile” explains Lambton. Nutrition, flexibility, goal setting and academic achievement are all factors that each player focuses on during their years at Dawson.
I was lucky enough to work in the Dawson program as a Goalie Coach for 4 seasons and currently 3-time Olympic Gold medalist Kim St-Pierre has taken over (not a bad replacement) as this year’s Goalie Coach. Also supporting Scott and Andrea this year are Dawson Alumni Alyssa Cecere and Emmanuelle Blais. After graduating from Dawson, both players had successful University Careers; Alyssa winning 3 National Championships with McGill University and Emmanuelle winning 2 NCAA National titles with Minnesota-Duluth. Together the team of Kim, Alyssa and Emmanuelle offer a tremendous amount of leadership and knowledge for the current players. They all understand what it takes to be a successful varsity-athlete and have had the experience of combing athletics with academics. They are great role models for the current players.
An aspect of the program that Lambton and the rest of the coaching staff take pride in and something that should be very important to many parents is that almost all student-athletes that play for Dawson graduate on time in two years. I have seen some coaches at the CEGEP level encourage their students to take their time, and play for 3 and sometimes 4 years, but this should not be the case. Players are subject to lose eligibility years at the University level both in the CIS and the NCAA if they play too many years at the CEGEP level. Often players and parents aren’t aware of this rule until it is too late. Players must be careful when selecting their courses and when they are considering their overall course load each semester. I am a strong believe that all student-athletes should plan to graduate on time, they should learn to manage their time accordingly to include a full course load and the time spent practicing, training, or travelling to games. If they take the easy road, they will never be able to handle the load given as a University varsity athlete.
Another element of a CEGEP program that parents and players MUST consider is academic support. At Dawson, the academic advisor is a woman by the name of Paddie Chiara. As a CEGEP student, most often your goal is to develop and have the ability to excel at the University level. The recruiting process to either the NCAA or the CIS is an extremely time consuming, stressful and sometimes confusing experience. Scott explains that Paddie’s role with the student-athletes at Dawson is extremely important and appreciated. “Paddie is incredible; she meets with potential recruits, tracks their applications, registers the girls, makes their schedules before any of the other students at Dawson, meets with players to see if there are any troubles, arranges tutors, arranges SAT’s, and fills out applications for players going on to University”. As if this isn’t enough, Paddie also takes calls from teachers, parents, and University coaches who are interested in our players. “Once they have gone on to University they can also expect to see her in the stands at some of their games proudly cheering them on”.
Dawson won 2007 CEGEP Championship, and have been a top contender in the league every season since 2005 which is impressive considering the number of athletes that they graduate each year. It seems like half the team develops and moves on after each season so the coaches are always finding themselves teaching their systems to a number of new players. In 2009, Dawson went undefeated in league play but fell short of a second Championship when they lost to Edouard Monpetit in shootouts. Each season, the team plays approximately 40 games which include a minimum of 3 tournaments where the team has travelled to places such as Washington, Stoney Creek, San Jose, Detroit, Connecticut and Vermont.
The on-ice and off-ice development that all Dawson players receive is incredible, ranging from the experienced coaching staff, to the academic support; it is safe for me to say that any player attending Dawson will be given an opportunity to excel and succeed at the next level. However, nothing is ever a guarantee in life, and without a strong passion for the game and work ethic, making it to elite levels is difficult. I have been lucky enough to have been a part of the Dawson community and enjoy speaking with the Dawson people regularly at the rinks. I strongly believe that any player who loves the game and works hard both on and off the ice will succeed in the Dawson environment. Their players learn how to handle a full workload while playing a high level of hockey and almost always graduate on time. I think it’s important for parents and players who are trying to figure out where to go to CEGEP to look at those who have gone through the program, where have they gone, and did they feel that their CEGEP program prepared them to be successful at the next level. If you look at the list of current and former Dawson Blues alumni, it’s very impressive. For me, this program definitely offers everything that I look for in a solid hockey program; knowledgeable and passionate coaches, experienced academic advisors, strong development and support and most importantly an understanding of the importance of academics for all their student-athletes to prepare them to graduate on time and ready for the next step in their career.
Dawson recruits athletes who are strong student-athletes and who enjoy working hard for themselves and for their teammates. If you are a player that is interested in learning more about Dawson please contact Head Coach Scott Lambton by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone (514) 235-2255.
List of Dawson Players that Played in the Olympics
List of Dawson Player that Played at the Senior National Level
List of Dawson Players that Played at the U22 National Level
Ann Sophie Bettez
List of Dawson Players that Player at the U18 National Level
List of Dawson Players to Play at the University Level
Nathanya Khazzam- Amherst
Emilie Luck- Concordia
Catherine Ward- McGill and Boston University
Stephanie Denino- Princeton
Alyssa Cecere- McGill
Audrey Doyon-Lessard- Concordia
Meghan George- Concordia
Mallory Lawton- Concordia
Karell Emard- St. Lawrence
Sara Dagenais- North Dakota
Ann-Sophie Bettez- McGill
Stacie Tardiff- McGill
Emmanuelle Blais- Minnesota-Duluth
Laurie Jolin- Brown
Alexandra Garcia- Connecticutt
Katrina Giuliani- Carleton and U de M
Joanie Plamondon- Norwich
Marie-Philip Guay- Norwich
Lauren Nutkevitch- Manhattanville
Emy Cote- Manhattanville
Jennifer Krakower- Middlebury
Vanessa Gagnon- Clarkson
Marie-Philip Poulin- Boston University
Lauriane Rougeau- Cornell
Camille Dumais- Dartmouth
Audrey Cournoyer- UMD
Joanne Cagianos- McGill
Vanessa Emond- St. Lawrence
Meliss Gagnon- Maine
Myriam Croussette- Maine
Sonia St. Martin- Northeastern
Emilie Bocchia- Concordia
Alexandra D’Ambrosio- Concordia
Audrey Gariepy- Concordia
Katia Murray- Concordia
Cassandra Poudrier- Cornell
Gabrielle Davidson- McGill