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Coach Beausoleil continues to push his volleyball boundaries
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Struggling to make the playoffs in a tough West division in a handful of recent years, dealing with all of the challenges that were imposed by virtue of the outbreak of Covid-19, one can understand why long-time Cambrian College women’s volleyball coach Dale Beausoleil might find his interest waning in regards to the position that he has held for more than a quarter century.

Of course, all this proves is that “one” does not understand the man that is Dale Beausoleil.

Not only did the most decorated coach in Golden Shield history return to the helm of the women’s team this year, he also added the men’s squad to his portfolio.

So how did things go?

A little better than OK, one might say, tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Not only did both OCAA entries find their way to post-season play this past winter, but Beausoleil accomplished the never-before-seen feat of being honoured as provincial collegiate Coach of the Year for both men’s and women’s OCAA volleyball.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had the thought where I wanted to stop coaching,” said Beausoleil, who was feted in style at the Cambrian Varsity Athletics year-end banquet last week. “I’m going to do that until the passion runs out, when I’m not feeling competitive anymore. I still love it a lot.”

That said, the notion of tackling both teams was hardly a given. Four times Athletic Director Tim Yu approached Beausoleil regarding the concept; four times Beausoleil passed on the offer. “It wasn’t a yes right away; it was a long time of saying I’m good,” he said with a laugh.

In fact, the turning point came when former assistant coach, Stephen Brown, mentioned that it would be fun to complete his post-secondary eligibility with a return to college under the tutorship of the man from whom he had learned so much in recent years. Then the work began.

“As soon as I decided (to coach), that’s when I decided to go after my Lasalle kids,” noted Beausoleil, alluding to the high-school boys’ program that he had led so often into OFSAA battle these past seven to eight years. “Those kids have been going elsewhere in the province. They did so well at high-school; I thought let’s see what they can do at the college level.”

While the time commitment to tackle both teams is both significant and impressive, the coaching framework is not without synergy. “There were times when we would practice at the exact same time and I would have the (gym) divider up,” explained Beausoleil. “I would run basically almost identical practices, usually early in the week.”

“Come Wednesday and Thursday, it was different practices; then it was four and a half, five hours for me.” The story was a similar one on game day.

“I might have a big five-set match with the girls, a real nail-biter that’s a huge rush,” he said. “Once that match is over, I have to change my mindset – often as the boys are warming up. We might be playing a game with the men where this is a match we should win or maybe we’re a definite underdog.”

“It could be totally different from the games the women just played.”

While both crews enjoyed arguably better than expected seasons, it was with his traditional women’s team where Beausoleil sensed the greatest pride. “For us to have success this year was absolutely incredible, given the hardships the team faced this year,” he stated.

From starting the season with no true middles, to athletes unable to play due to out of town placements, to having to host end of January tryouts simply to build back up from a roster that had shrunk to a devoted seven, the Golden Shield women battled.

No surprise that the Sturgeon Falls talent that was recently named Female Athlete of the Year at Cambrian was in the middle of it all – pardon the pun. “I used a totally different way of setting my lineup than anyone else in the OCAA, because I had Izzy (Isabelle Rivest) setting out of the middle,” stated Beausoleil.

“It’s very unique and very, very difficult for the setter to do. Very few athletes can do what she did.”

And in the end, it’s those parts to the story that help Dale Beausoleil remain engaged, a joy for coaching and helping post-secondary athletes make memories.

“I did have a lot of fun doing both, and I think the kids had the time of their life,” he said. “Both teams go along so well – it’s insane how much those two teams hang out. It’s pretty special for the kids, coming out of the pandemic and enjoying life together.”

And all of this comes from a man who knows a thing or two about being special.

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