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Sunday, May. 19, 2019
Frank Legault looks to turn things around
by Randy Pascal

“I obviously did not take the job to lose every game.”

Under normal circumstances, that might sound like a coach stating the obvious. The reality, however, for incoming Collège Boréal Vipères women's volleyball coach Frank Legault, is that this is not a run of the mill OCAA program.

Nine full years have passed since the Vipères women last claimed a match in league play. If Legault can coax five set victories, this season, from his troops, it will constitute the highest total since the 2011-2012 campaign.

Safe to say that Frank Legault has his work cut out for him. The 33 year-old life-long native of Sturgeon Falls is not about to sidestep the issue. He accepted the job, late this summer, fully prepared to roll up his sleeves and begin to make a difference.

“We have to change the mindset,” said Legault. “They have been used to losing for so long, that we have to work on the mental aspect of the game, make sure that we can compete. I came in a bit late this year, so no recruiting was done. I am working with what I have.”

There is a saying, within NCAA football circles, that the success of any new coach has less to do “with the X's and O's, and more to do with the Jimmies and Joes.” The point being that the best coach in the world cannot succeed without bringing in some degree of athletic talent. Legault pulls no punches in this regard.

“Recruiting is going to be a big part of turning around this program,” he said. “Luckily, from my standpoint, I have been around quite a bit, I have lots of people that I know that are coaching down south, in Ottawa. If only twelve kids show up for tryouts, but they are twelve kids that can play volleyball, then we're all set.”

It's not as though Legault has no experience building from the ground up. Fascinatingly enough, he never played the sport that has so captured his imagination, as a youngster. “I started coaching volleyball when I was nineteen,” he recalled. “The first school that I worked at had no volleyball coach. I walked on the court, started learning and just fell in love with the sport.”

This wasn't just a passing romance. Legault was completely smitten. Less than a decade later, he would combine forces with fellow Sturgeon Falls volleyball gurus Angèle Piquette and Alex Coulombe, launching the West Nipissing Wild club program. “Everything comes with time and experience, but I had really good mentors,” said Legault.

Between his work with his new club teams, along with a very successful run, with squads on both the boys and girls side, at Ecole Secondaire Franco-Cité, Legault would gradually cultivate a winning attitude. “There has been a lot of growth as a coach, for me, in the last five to six years,” he suggested. “Gaining more confidence, exposing myself to high performance camps, OVA camps, learning from all of the coaches that I meet.”

Still, this new opportunity certainly required a leap of faith. “A lot of people had tagged me to the post (regarding the coaching opening), but I wasn't sure I was ready for this position,” he said. “It's an hour and fifteen minute drive, every day. I came in for the interview with (Athletics Director) Andrea (Boyce) and told her we would give it a shot. I'm really enjoying myself and can't wait to keep going.”

As many experienced coaches can confess, regardless of the sport, the long road to respectability begins with the basics, the fundamentals. “You can't do anything without a first pass, so they have been working on passing for the last month and a half,” Legault confessed. “It's paying off. We are competing more against the teams we are playing against. The points might not reflect it yet, but the game play is.”

“We still have a lot of work to do.”

Small steps. A three set loss on Saturday to the Conestoga Condors would see Boréal in each and every game, falling 15-25, 16-25, 20-25. All fourteen players on the roster would see court time, in the match, a group that included six rookies and seven second year players.

His goals might be aggressive, but Frank Legault understands that there is some give and take needed as he looks to chart a new course with his young team. “My number one thing is that when we reach the end of the season, my athletes want to come back, or want to continue in the sport,” he said. “I have been told that I am strict, but fun.”

“I have a good balance where athletes can have some fun, but when it's time to be serious, we'll be serious.” Familiar with at least some of the pieces of his new team, Legault is looking to sophomore setter, Zoé Gagné (Franco-Cité), and freshman middle Megan Hicks (Macdonald-Cartier) as key elements that he can build around.

He will need more, plenty more, if he is to achieve the early targets he has established for himself. “My intention is that in the next three to four years, we have a competitive program,” he said. “We'll be taking home sets. In the next few years, we want to be competing in the playoff round, the crossover games, and I think that's very possible.”

“It's a culture that we want to change at the school, and I think we're going to do it.”

Still looking for their first set victory of the year, the Vipères (0-4) should have some interesting matches coming at the end of the month, travelling to Hamilton to battle an equally winless Redeemer Royals side, before hosting a young and rebuilding Cambrian Golden Shield team on Wednesday, November 28th, at Collège Boréal.

The 2018-2019 edition of the Vipères includes Brianne Chouinard, Myriam Bouffard, Caroline Pellerin, Joelle Proulx, Zoe Gagné, Josée Coté, Maurissa Ducharme, Jasmine Gagnon, Andréa Desormiers, Karlee Gravelle, Maddison Loiselle, Taylor Soucy, Maissie Gionest and Megan Hicks.

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