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Sunday, May. 19, 2019
A local foundation shaped the future of Julie Cloutier-Rainville
by Randy Pascal

Beginning at 1:00 p.m., next Friday (February 22nd), Cambrian College will play host to the 2019 OCAA Women's Volleyball Championship.

Staging this event in Sudbury is just the latest feather in the cap for a program that has enjoyed more success as members of the Golden Shield varsity athletics family than any other grouping on campus.

And while their record of 4-14 this season might make the current crop of Cambrian female talent a heavy underdog at this particular tournament, a very young team looking to walk away with some valuable experience early in their careers, there is little doubt that the footsteps they are following in are impressive ones.

Countless are the ultra-talented young women who have donned the Golden Shield jersey, under the watch of head coach Dale Beausoleil, and parlayed a very successful OCAA career into a noteworthy future in a whole variety of different work settings.

Currently 45 years old and with two very talented sons who are mainstays within the Ottawa Mavericks club volleyball system, Julie Cloutier-Rainville still cherishes, years later, her time in Sudbury. “It's been ages, but the memories are still so fond,” noted the native of Kapuskasing. “Being at Cambrian and playing for Dale and all of the experience it brought, it shaped me into who I am today.”

In fact, more than most, Cambrian left an imprint on this young lady who was not only an MVP of the league All-Star game during the course of her post-secondary career, but was also recognized as the Golden Shield Female Athlete of the Year in the early 1990's.

“I had an idea that I wanted to play (volleyball) and I had been recruited from a couple of university teams, but decided to go to Cambrian because of the program,” reminisced Cloutier-Rainville. “I was going for the interpretation for the deaf, the first year of the program. Playing volleyball was a bonus, but I didn't choose Cambrian because of the volleyball.”

A high school graduate of Cité des Jeunes, back in her hometown, Cloutier-Rainville recalls a much different environment for those who wished to pursue competitive sports than the littany of opportunities now available to the youth of today.

“I was lucky, because I had gone to camps like the Madawaska and the regional team program during the summer – but mostly, it was the high school level that developed me,” she said. “Now days, if you want to play at a competitive level, you play club and high school ball, making club your priority."

It's no small wonder that Cloutier-Rainville can talk with conviction when comparing different eras. Following her graduation from Cambrian, she would ultimately wed Paul Rainville, a varsity athlete himself with the Laurentian Voyageurs, a product of the Kit Lefroy coached volleyball teams at the time.

Go figure that their two sons are more than just casual volleyball aficionados.

“The skill level that the kids have now, at such a young age, is phenomenal,” she stated. “It blows my mind. The OVA (Ontario Volleyball Association) has developed a High Performance program that develops next level athletes, through their summer camps, regional competitions, developmental programs. And with the Mavericks, it extends to mental training, nutrition workshops, strength training, developing the complete athlete.”

Though Paul continues to coach in the club system, Julie has stepped away somewhat from the limelight. “I did stay involved playing in the Ottawa Carleton Volleyball League, however, once I had the kids, my priorities shifted. Now I'm a proud volleyball mom.”

Well, juggling that role with her work duties as principal at École élémentaire catholique Arc-en-Ciel. Cloutier-Rainville followed her time at Cambrian by attending Teacher's College, moving on to obtain certification in Special Education, then her Masters, and finally, her principal-ship.

It's a journey that she feels she owes, at least in part, to her Golden Shield volleyball days.

“Dale's strongest asset was not just the coaching he did on the court, it was also the coaching he did off the court,” she said. “Whatever we learned on the court, he helped us transfer it to real life. He is one of the most significant people in my life, along with Dolly (Basso), his sister, and my teammate at the time.”

“The education system now emphasizes the development of the 21st century skills, communication, critical thinking, citizenship, creativity and leadership skills that are the learned lessons".

“My volleyball experience at Cambrian gave me an edge in developing my leadership skills, the importance of collaboration and adapting to different people and different situations,” added Cloutier-Rainville. “Those were abilities that were not taught explicitly in schools at that time.”

Though there are vague memories of the competitive elements, the really tough grudge matches against the likes of the Seneca Sting, in those days, the truth is that trying to recall the specifics of any individual win or loss seems a much more challenging task than addressing the vivid generic images that come to mind as this very gifted middle spans a gap of more than thirty years since her playing days.

“It's the bonds, the friendships and the experience,” said Cloutier-Rainville. “It's not just one particular moment, it's all of the moments, put together. It's on the court and the off the court memories that make it so special.”

Just the types of memories that the current crop of Cambrian talent are sure to pull up, with ease, when folks reconnect with them about their time as Golden Shield athletes, come the year 2050 or so.

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