Daniel Fay is well known to all Widnes fans as a very solid defencemen and, since he joined the Wild two seasons ago, he has picked up numerous man of the match awards and end of season awards for his endeavours.
However, this season, he has another accolade to add to his – already bulging – trophy cabinet, and one that even he at the start of the season could hardly have imagined – that of having coached the Widnes Wild women’s team to the Division 1 North League title.
By his own admission, Dan had never coached a senior team before and had only helped out with juniors teams and “learn to play hockey” sessions back in his native Bracknell, so it was an unusual step for him to take, as he explains:
“Obviously, at beginning of the season the women’s team were without a coach and Phil Pearson stepped up to the role. He asked me and a few other guys from the Wild to give him a hand with it. Initially, I thought I’d be there to push pucks around and just help out at training. Following a few weeks of doing this – which I thoroughly enjoyed, with a great group of girls – Emma came to me saying that we could get it sorted for me to come on the bench and from there it just sort of happened.”
When asked how he went about structuring the training sessions to make sure that everybody was included and everybody benefited, he said:
“There was a wide range of abilities within the team and we needed to make training easy enough for beginners but not boring for the more elite players.”
“We had to try and work on different things for each person but a key aspect was the skating component. That is probably the most important skill in the game and we wanted to improve that first.”
“We ran skating drills for the first month of the season, along with stations and shooting practise. In order to be able to focus on systems and flow drills we then decided to do separate skating lessons on Wednesday nights in which many of the girls came down which showed their commitment to the team.”
“Overall I felt we all did a good job here by running progression drills which developed over the season till the end where everyone was flying.”
Talking about winning the league title at his first attempt at coaching, Faye said:
“It was a great achievement to win the D1N title but it was all down to the girls. They put so much effort and work into it and came together as a team throughout the season. It was a pleasure for me to coach them and I am so proud of each of them.”
“I would love to continue coaching – especially these girls they make it enjoyable and are all great hockey players – and hopefully we can go and win more trophies!”
Commenting on the new coaching arrangements this season, Wild women’s player Pauline Hayward said:
“Phil and Dan make a great coaching team. They adopted a very different style, going back to basics with the whole team and putting a strong emphasis on fitness. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of training this season.”
“Their style has clearly brought us the results we wanted. They have worked hard on our skating skills too – with Dan even doing extra work with us during public sessions, encouraging us all to get as much ice time as possible.”
“Phil has done a lot of netminder coaching too, between them they have really built up the confidence of the team that hard work and playing as a team will pay off – which of course it has.
“Hats off, too, to the more experienced “senior” players who have committed 100% to developing all of the players. We have the best and most generous team spirit possible where everyone can be happy and thrive.”
Shannon Holt – who made her league debut in January, said:
“Phil and Dan have been brilliant coaches this season. They have not only worked with us as a team, but have worked with us individually to see what we can improve on and what we are doing well. The two have made a great difference to the game and have been a real asset to the team this season.”
“The team works really well together. The more experienced players help us rookies out and give us hints and tips into the structure and playing of the game. Overall, I think that all the girls are a strong team, on and off the ice.”