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Ray Chevrette - Coaching for all the right reasons

In the words of at least one long-time local soccer observer: "He was the perfect coach for that particular team".

"He", in this case, is 58 year old Sudburian Ray Chevrette - and that "particular team" was none other than the two-time OFSAA "A" champion Macdonald-Cartier Panthères.

Blessed with the top-end talent of Cloe Lacasse and Karolyne Blain, the steadying influence of goaltender Ashley Béchard and a rock lineup, front to back, that featured as much depth as Chevrette has ever enjoyed in his 12 year career with ESMC, the man who is most well-known for his wonderful manner with the very young, also managed to bring the very talented to the pinnacle of success.

The middle of five children in the family, Chevrette and his siblings grew up in McCrae Heights, with a near-perfect proximity to the hotbed of community sport in those days.

"We lived close to the playground, so if anyone needed anything, we were either reffing, or coaching, or playing," Chevrette said. By the time that he was 15, Chevrette had started to help out with the younger children, hooking up with older brother Skip (Roy) as a coaching tandem in his later teens.

"When I first started coaching, it was mostly listening to my older brother telling me what to do," he recalled with a laugh. "He was a teacher, so he had a natural way with the kids."

The base was established, almost immediately, for the basic tenets of coaching that Chevrette would hold dear to this day. "I followed a lot of his stuff. He was always fair with the kids. He believed that everybody is there to play and to learn, especially at the recreational level," Chevrette said.

"I think all the kids deserve the same amount of ice time, or field time in soccer." As the demands of raising a young family with wife Suzanne grew, Chevrette backed away from coaching - but only for a while.

"I had coached for five or six years in the Valley and then work got in the way," he said. "I got back into coaching again with my kids, in about 1990 when my daughter was six."

With a hockey heavy background, the easy going and always active Chevrette would step carefully into the world of youth soccer. "When I first started, I was really lucky because I got placed with a coach by the name of Aurèle Bertrand."

"He was a really, really good coach and I learned a lot from him, not necessarily for specific drills, but learning how to talk to the kids, how to treat the kids," Chevrette said. "I enjoyed coaching with him."

Two years later, it was time for the fledgling soccer coach to leave the nest, taking the team on his own. Working within the Sudburnia Soccer Club ranks that would eventually reward Chevrette with Coach of the Year honours, he gradually picked up more about the game, all while maintaining his steadfast belief in how young people should be treated.

"I like to enforce sportsmanship," he said. "I'm not a big fan of win at all cost." Chevrette appeared the perfect fit for recreational soccer, following his daughter (Stéphanie) through her years with Sudburnia.

"I was asked a few years ago to coach competitive soccer, but I enjoy working with the kids that are just starting and developing," Chevrette said. "I think I'm a better coach there, helping the little kids."

Which is all fine, except for the fact that Stéphanie was now beginning her high school career, not exactly the realm of the "little kids". And while Macdonald-Cartier was in need of a coach just as his daughter arrived for grade 9, there was also an interesting mix of soccer background coming into play.

"There was a combination of recreational and competitive" Chevrette, thinking back to the early days of his time at ESMC. "Some of the kids had never even played soccer the first couple of years I was there. Some had played Sudburnia, some had played rep."

That was a pretty common mix at the New Sudbury school, at least until Lacasse, Blain and company became household names in Sudbury during the four years they would spend with the Panthères.

"I think this team we had, we didn't have any weak spots on the team - the defense, the forwards, the goaltending, they were all good," Chevrette said. "Even the players coming off the bench performed well."

Still, he managed to stay true to himself, all while dealing with a group of young ladies who had no lack of aspirations of what they could accomplish. "I think my coaching changed a little, in that I became a little more serious," Chevrette said.

Yet the smile was ever present, having watched Chevrette on countless occasions over the past few years, stationed right near the midfield stripe. It was an opportunity for the easy going coach to earn a different type of reward.

"I like to see the young kids, who are not sure of what they're doing, I like to see them progress," Chevrette said. "This team with Macdonald-Cartier, the reward was watching everyone play so well. They all knew what their jobs were."

"Most of this crew have been together for four years, so I know what they can do and what they can't do - when to back off and when to push them a little more." The end result was back to back provincial championships.

So I'm not about to dispute it when Chevrette, at the end of the day, states: "I thought I was a good coach for them. Hopefully, they feel the same."

Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League