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Flag football just make sense at Laurentian University
2024-04-04
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Sometimes, even in the wacky world of local sports, things just make sense.

Certainly to Lasalle Lancers’ flag football coach Lance Patrie they did.

This past fall, the local teacher and sport aficionado welcomed Mary Grannary to his team coaching staff.

Not only was the native of North Bay now in Sudbury attending the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, but she carried with her the experience of having played flag football with the Western Mustangs club team that competes in the league hosted by the Ontario Women’s Intercollegiate Football Association.

“It opened my eyes up to the fact that there was a 5 v 5 (post-secondary) league down south,” said Patrie. “You look at the number of SDSSAA girls that played flag football – 520 from grades nine to 12 last fall – and it just made sense that Laurentian (University) should have a team.”

“There are a lot of really solid athletes that are playing (HS) flag football now – and thriving in it,” added Patrie. “It was a no brainer to get that started.”

Conversations with Jean Benoit (Laurentian Campus Recreation Coordinator) would unveil a level of support needed to move the initiative forward. “He helped with establishing a social media account and we put the tryouts out there and it took off from there,” said Patrie.

From an initial group of 68 registrants, the L.U. roster was trimmed to their final 25, with 15 set to take to the field this coming weekend as Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton prepares to host tournament play.

With the likes of Ozzy Flores, Nick Rideout, Brett Walter and Veronique St Jean helping out with the coaching duties (and Heather Lee serving as trainer), the crew was in place to map out a vision for what this initial Laurentian team should look like.

“We had a great discussion as a coaching staff and all of the coaches were on the same page: we want athletes,” said Patrie. “We want athletes that have good hand-eye coordination and can go up and get a ball. Players that are aggressive and have speed – and not just straight speed, but lateral quickness as well.”

“We can coach these players the game.”

The end product would bring together elements of two worlds: some very familiar names from their playing days in the SDSSAA flag football loop and a large group of natural athletes blessed with the core skills needed to learn a new sport.

Taking another shot at competitive flag football was every bit as much of a no-brainer for quarterback and Lively District Secondary School graduate Addison Elliott as was the introduction of the team at L.U. for coach Patrie.

“As soon as I saw it on Instagram, I was like: sign me up!,” exclaimed the 20 year-old long-time figure skater and third year Physical Education and Concurrent Education major. “I thought that my grade 12 year was going to be my last year. I knew that if I didn’t do it, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.”

“It’s good to be back on the field,” Elliott added.

Still, there was that absence of a few years to overcome.

“After the first couple of tryouts, I definitely had to get back into the groove,” she noted.

“Honestly, what I have been working on all month is the mental side of the game, learning not to be too hard on myself.”

The fact is that 5 v 5 ball on a field that is 25 yards wide is a much different animal than 7 v 7 ball on the 65 yard wide space that is the James Jerome turf field.

“It’s a huge learning curve,” said Elliott. “At Lively, I was calling all of the plays as quarterback. Now, our coaches are bringing in really cool stuff that we didn’t do in high-school as much. We’re learning to understand the full game.”

“The coaches have been awesome, helping me out with that.”

New Liskeard native Madison Boileau comes at this from a completely different perspective.

With no flag football played in her hometown and her athletic interest lying largely with hockey and basketball, it was only a post-secondary fateful crossing of paths that steered her towards this team.

“My boyfriend (Gabriel Hetherington – from Niagara Falls – student at L.U.) is a football player,” Boileau explained. “He encouraged me, helped develop my love for the sport. I thought I would try it out and see – and so far, so good.”

Like so many on this team, Boileau is more than capable of sporting metamorphosis.

“I tried out for offense at first but then they put me on defense,” she said with a smile. “I am aggressive – and it’s helpful to have someone that aggressive on the (defensive) unit.”

For as many young women who have played the game know, flag grabbing is an art form in to itself. “I would put socks in my friends’ pockets and then would pull them out, just to help me with that feeling,” stated Boileau. “And then the coaches helped me out with how to grab a flag properly, to get it from the highest part instead of the lowest part so that you have more flag to grab.”

“And having gloves helps a lot of us,” continued the 22 year-old fourth year student in the same line of studies as Elliott.

With just one exhibition game under their belts, the team carries tempered hopes to the home of the Tiger Cats. “We’ll put everything that we’ve been able to bring together in just three months into a game and go at it with that,” suggested Boileau.

“I don’t want to put any expectations on wins and losses, but would love for us to be in every game, to compete in every game,” chimed in Patrie. “We want to compete and get better every game – and would love to win at least one.”

The 2024 roster for the Laurentian Voyageurs flag football team includes Addison Elliott, Alexandra Baxter, Alyssa Guimond, Brittney Delowski, Cayleigh Brule, Claire McInroy, Dana Carbone, Danika Gareau, Emilie Riess, Gabrielle Clouatre, Katie Miglioranza, Kennedy Ward, Maddie Starratt, Madison Boileau, Peyton Brear, Rebekah Poxleitner, Sabrina Folz, Shelley Hladin, Sydney Coe, Sydney Riddle, Taylor Doyle, Tyra Swan, Vanessas Paterson, Zoe Renaud and Zoe Rienguette.

Greater Sudbury Soccer Club