February 22, 2014 - 3:05 PM
KAMLOOPS - A female hockey coach from Kamloops who maintained a sexual relationship with her 15-year-old player for up to a year appears to be headed to prison.
A Kamloops court heard Friday the coach, 39 at the of the offences, was a high level hockey player for over 25 years before she began coaching children in the area. She cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim.
Prosecutor Don Mann told Supreme Court Justice Hope Hyslop the coach "believed in her as a player” and devoted extra time to her. The young player looked up to her coach, who was trained by NHL coaches and spent time playing in Europe and the U.S. The player looked to her for hockey advice and spent long hours practicing with her.
The two grew close and eventually the player sought advice in other areas of life as well, beginning with innocent talks about school, but eventually moved to sexuality. When she learned the coach was a lesbian, the player admitted to questioning her own sexuality.
The relationship got closer from there. The coach took her to movies and Blazers games and they texted and phoned each other daily. The coach bought her rings, earrings, a wallet and more gifts.
The family became familiar with the coach, viewing her as an adopted family member and she spent plenty of time at the player's home. The victim’s parents trusted the coach, asked her to watch their home and their daughter when they travelled, oblivious to the relationship. At some point they became suspicious and asked questions, but their daughter denied how serious it was.
According to submissions in court, the relationship began with a simple kiss. The Crown says the player was confused and surprised by it—her first with another female. Given almost unlimited access to the player, the relationship escalated to 'countless' sexual encounters—at the coach’s home, at the victim’s brother’s house while the coach house-sat for him and at the victim’s house while the parents were away.
And of course when the team travelled. On one occasion, the coach had three players, including the victim, in her bed overnight. On another, the coach attempted to perform a sexual act on the victim while her parents slept in the same hotel room and a friend was on a couch next to them.
Both admit to feeling love and affection for one another, the coach even telling the player if she were of legal age, she would marry her.
How and when the relationship ended is in dispute.
While Mann said it lasted a year, defence lawyer Michelle Stanford said it ended after seven months. Stanford said the coach was in a bad place in her life when she met the player. Her sexual orientation was still secret and she had recently attempted suicide. She had just ended a four-year relationship, was on anti-depressants, and was suffering from epilepsy and celiac disease, among other issues.
Without her troubles, she’d have made different decisions, Stanford said. While weak, she welcomed the attention and value the young player placed on her.
Stanford said the coach regretted her actions and has pleaded guilty to all charges including sexual interference of a person under 16, which carries a mandatory minimum jail sentence.
Mann is pressing for nine months to a year in prison. Stanford argued the coach has already suffered greatly and suggested 90 days in jail to be served over weekends, or six months incarceration.
The sentencing hearing is expected to continue next week.
— This story was edited March 7 to clarify Ferber's age. She was 39 at the time of the offences.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014