As one door closes, another one opens.
In the realm of the current youth sports scene, this is as much a literal truth as it is a figurative one.
The fact that community sports groups, most notably club volleyball and basketball teams, remained hard pressed to access convenient, suitable practice venues has created an expansion opportunity for another local sports business.
Late last month, the Baseball Academy (1010 Lorne Street) effectively doubled in size, opening up an additional 7000 square foot court floored surface adjacent to their current baseball training facility.
"With the school gyms being closed, that kind of pushed me to move forward with this," noted Academy owner/operator Jean-Gilles Larocque. "I know that COVID is eventually going to end and school gyms will open again, but I think this is a great opportunity to help get people active."
And while there is little doubt that his initial foray into self-employed was better tailored to the sport in which he distinguished himself, competing for a handful of seasons south of the border, the passion for recreational outlets that Larocque possesses stretches across the entire spectrum of sport.
"I am a huge, huge fan of multi-sport participation," said the man who is acknowledged to be the single biggest driving force in the sport of baseball in Sudbury. "My own kids are playing a variety of different sports, I grew up playing multiple sports."
His finger still set on the pulse of much of what is happening with local athletics, Larocque began to set the wheels in motion to determine the exact set-up of his new training space. "I focused on what it needed to look like, what lines needed to be in place to service the market, for the venue to work for the community," said the physical education teacher at St Charles College.
"For me to have a comfort level with this venture, I knew that the Chill (Northern Chill Volleyball Club) and Jam (Sudbury Jam Basketball Club) would have to provide a bit of a base tennant, at least in year one."
All of which meets very much with the approval of 16 year-old Emma Coutu and her 17U Northern Chill Polar teammates. "I think it's really cool that they could find a spot for us to play - we really needed this," she said.
Though the Sudbury YMCA offers a relatively comparable option, this new set-up is far better than the makeshift courts at the old CNIB building, with ceiling heights far too low for competitive volleyball squads (Chill Polar had been practicing at the YMCA and CNIB since early October).
There are actually many aspects of the new digs that draws a favourable thumbs up from Coutu and company. "Honestly, this is like the floors at provincials (similar to the sports court flooring that is used at Rim Park Sports Complex in Kitchener-Waterloo), so it brings me back to that," said the grade 11 student at College Notre-Dame.
"This is better than school gyms. It hurts less when you hit the floor."
After spending a year suiting up for a club in North Bay, Coutu is thankful for the chance to be back, this year, practicing alongside many of the girls that she has known through the Sudbury school volleyball scene. That said, she is hopeful that her year away can still serve as a positive.
"It exposed me to different perspectives," she said. "I got to work with different girls too, so to see different techniques and their take on things. Being able to bring that back here, not only for myself, but for my teammates as well, would be good."
The return home sees Coutu working under coach Tess Peterson for the very first time. "Some teams run certain hits in a certain way," said the veteran power hitter. "They might work with the setters, moving them around on the net."
"Even on defense, our left sides would play in six back, and this year, I'm playing in five, which is a bit of an adjustment."
Of course, the setting at the expanded Baseball Academy complex also offers the potential to incorporate coaching aids, making better use of technology to assist those who work directly with the athletes.
"The cameras sound like a really good idea, something that could really help us with our game," said Coutu. "It would help our coaches to know what we need to work on."
And while there remains work to be done, the man behind the project is encouraged by what he sees to date.
"I don't know exactly what year two and year three will look like," said Larocque. "But this is looking good so far."
Anyone looking for more information regarding the new sporting venue is asked to contact Jean-Gilles Larocque at email@example.com