Katya Dittrich: It Takes a Village to Raise a Coach
By: Simone Cseplo
Coaching is more than seeing athletes perform at their best, it’s about building a community. For Katya Dittrich, that is exactly what her coaching philosophy is all about.
The 19-year-old Alberta native already has six years of coaching under her belt. After suffering from injuries as an athlete, Dittrich made the transition to coach.
“I got into coaching as a way to stay in the community; to stay in the sport; to give back a little despite being injured,” she told Biathlon Canada. “It turns out I loved coaching more than I loved racing.”
It was the camaraderie, team and sense of family that made her not only fall in love with the sport at eight-years-old, but had a lasting impact.
“Biathlon is an amazing sport because everything is centred around the range. Your ability doesn’t really matter because you can still be with the team at the racks, loading clips, doing all that kind of stuff. So, kids can be friends with teammates that have a higher ability level than them very easily, compared to a lot of sports.”
Dittrich, who coaches biathletes 12 to 14 years old, centres her coaching around fun. Her coaching style was inspired not only by her own experiences as an athlete, but the relationships she’s made with other coaches throughout the start of her young, yet promising career.
In 2019, Dittrich was selected as an apprentice coach for the Canada Winter Games. It was at these Games where she took part in leadership conferences at Canada Winter Games Women in Coaching program.
“It was really cool to meet female coaches from across different sports and talk to them about their experience […] and hear about their stories and connect in that way.”
The network she made during the Canada Winter Games had a lasting impression. With guidance from coaches, Dittrich explains that she wants to build a community for all coaches by supporting and encouraging one another.
The transition into coaching wasn’t always a straight shot for Dittrich.
Even though her coaching experience extends to programs across the country, she explains her confidence wasn’t always there. Waves of self-doubt made her question her expertise and if she was the right fit to be a coach.
After grappling with the feelings of if she’s qualified, Dittrich realized that coaching isn’t just believing in the athletes, but also believing in oneself.
“Don’t doubt yourself. Imposter syndrome is really big, and I definitely had issues with it,” Dittrich says as she reflects on her early days of coaching. “Have confidence in your knowledge and your ability [with] what you bring to the table […] the experience and ability you bring is something unique and sometimes it’s easy to forget that.”
Only having one female coach growing up, Dittrich hopes to see more representation of women in sport.
“I think it’s incredibly important [to see female coaches] because girls seeing other girls who have done the sport, or who are in the sport is important. It makes girls believe that they can do it,” explains Dittrich. “Any girl — who is thinking of getting into coaching or is beginning coaching — know that your role is so important. I would have loved to have a female coach growing up, and I’m glad I get to be that.”
As Dittrich grows into her role as coach, she says that she’s excited to see the evolution of the sport and the biathlon community grow even more.
“Biathlon is not a big sport, but seeing the community come together — I think that’s one of the things that makes biathlon so cool. It’s small within the country but everyone knows everyone; and everyone supports everyone too.”
If you would like to read more stories like this, check out our Women’s Initiative page on our website.