Virden product Karissa Kirkup is looking to blaze a pioneering trail for women on the ice next winter.
The daughter of Kary and Suzanne Kirkup has been named the head coach of the first ever Brandon U15 AAA Female Wheat Kings. A former Westman Wildcats U18 AAA standout, she played post-secondary hockey in the United States and Canada, including for the University of Manitoba.
“I am looking forward to having a positive impact on the community by being able to give the players the opportunities and experiences I was fortunate enough to have growing up to develop as a human being as well as a hockey player,” Kirkup said.
Traditionally female Brandon players joined the Wildcats or the Yellowhead Chiefs to play at the U15 AAA level. Increased numbers for the upcoming season allowed the creation of the new high-level squad to compete in the Manitoba U15 AAA Female League.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to be a small part in growing the female hockey game within Manitoba,” Kirkup said. “I feel it is long overdue for Brandon to have a U15 AAA team and it will bring more competition for rural teams.”
The new team will be mentored by an all-female coaching staff. Kirkup is joined by assistant coach Amanda Coey, a former University of Wisconsin – Superior player, and fellow U of M alumni Amy Doerksen, who will serve as program coordinator.
Kirkup started coaching during her time at the U of M. Her experiences include, but are not limited to, coaching the Director's Cup for three years, assistant coach of the U16 Junior Bison team, U10 Junior Bison head coach, and assistant coach last season for a Brandon U7 Timbits team.
“In a nutshell, Karissa has the experience, skills, training, attitude and coaching philosophy to really lead this new program and build it into something special,” Doerksen said. “While she enjoyed coaching at the U7 level, she is passionate about coaching at higher levels. Both she and assistant coach Amanda Coey are great examples of how we need to do more to integrate recent college/university level players into our coaching system. These women love the game and they want to give back. We just need to provide them with the opportunity.”
Speaking of opportunities, Kirkup, who teaches in Carberry, appreciates all that her parents have done so that she could pursue her passion for the sport she loves.
“I have endless gratitude for the support my family has shown me throughout my hockey playing career and now my coaching career,” she said. “My brother (Tyler) is currently playing (NCAA) Division l hockey for the Bemidji State University Beavers. My parents are always in the stands for our games, whether that meant in person for one of us one weekend and then switching the next weekend, while watching the other online. I would not be where I am today without the support of my family and friends.”