Gavin Broadhead – one of the best athletes to ever come out of Hay River – has taken a new turn in his sports career.
Broadhead is now working with the South Alberta Hockey Academy in Medicine Hat, Alta., after finishing just over a year training as a speed skater under a national team coach with a group called the Long Track Elite Athlete Pathway at the Calgary Olympic Oval.
“I kind of just made the decision now that I’m done being a competitive full-time athlete and I want to be financially self-sustainable,” he said. “And being an amateur athlete in Canada isn’t all that glamourous. So being able to make a living and coach hockey doing something that I love is going to be the best option for me.”
Until 2014, Broadhead played Junior A hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League.
And in his new focus on coaching, he will also be working with his old team as its strength and conditioning coach for in-season and off-season training.
Broadhead, who has a kinesiology degree from the University of Lethbridge, will be able to put that education to good use.
“I’m really excited because knowing what I know now about strength and conditioning, I feel like I can help the guys achieve what they want to get out of their training. I know more about it,” he said. “It’s what I went to school for in Lethbridge. I’ve learned quite a bit in speed skating about exercise physiology and how to create fast-skating bodies, basically.”
At the South Alberta Hockey Academy, he will be assistant coach of its Midget Triple A boys team in the Canadian School Sport Hockey League, which has teams in Western Canada and the United States. And he will be the strength and conditioning coach for boys and girls of all ages learning about hockey at the academy, where young people can play the sport and get credit for it at their schools.
Broadhead was asked if it was difficult to leave the speed skating training program in Calgary and the possibility of ever making it to the Olympics.
“No, it wasn’t a difficult decision, because the people I’m going to be working with in Medicine Hat are incredible people. I love the city. I’ve coached hockey before and I’m really excited to move on to something a little bit different,” he said. “It wasn’t hard. After being around all the athletes, seeing the Olympians, I have a lot of respect for what they do. After being on the inside now, I can’t honestly say that that’s what I would want to do with the next five or eight years of my life.”
Broadhead said he is just going from being an athlete to coaching athletes, and trying to help younger athletes achieve their maximum potential in sport.
“And that’s just something that I’m really passionate about,” he said. “So I was just going from one thing I love to another.”
Broadhead had entered the speed skating program to test out the sport after winning the Alberta section of RBC Training Ground, which is a Canada-wide program designed to discover athletes with potential that might lead to the Olympics.
“You just don’t know what it’s going to be like when you’re starting speed skating,” he said. “I think physically and mentally I probably do have the potential to be a really elite speed skater on the world stage, but it’s just devoting your whole life to that and having no kind of life balance. All it is is just being an athlete. Wake up in the morning, train all day basically, sleep, make almost no money and then repeat that.”
Broadhead said coaching will offer a more comfortable life.
The 25-year-old entered the speed skating training program in January of last year and finished with the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in March.
Along with being a hockey coach, he plans to continue working as a roofer, something he does in both Medicine Hat and Hay River during the summers.