Former Stinger takes what she learns from coaching to her teaching
In July 2018, the Concordia Stingers named Jocelyn Barrieau the head coach of the women’s rugby team. With that, Barrieau’s career has come full circle.
Barrieau played rugby at the university level for five seasons, with the first four at McGill. She came to Concordia to play for the Stingers in 2011, to pursue her dream of playing for the Canadian national team, which never panned out. She did help the Stingers reach the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) final. They lost in the final against the Université de Laval Rouge et Or. “It was definitely a good year and good experience for me,” Barrieau said.
While playing at the university level, she also coached the Dawson Blues women’s rugby team from 2007 to 2011, winning four championships. She’s also been a skills coach with the Stingers men’s rugby team since 2013. Having coached at the CÉGEP level, and now as a head coach at the university level, Barrieau said there’s a big difference between the two.
“CÉGEP is important, but [university] is a pretty important part of people’s lives because they’re really figuring out what path they’re taking,” Barrieau said. “It’s a pretty intense time, and to throw on the fact that you’re a varsity athlete on top of all the stuff that’s going on is a pretty big load.”
She also added that players are more mature at the university level, and are better organized with school. “All that stuff is a practice run in CÉGEP and it’s a bigger task here,” Barrieau said.
Barrieau also said there’s added benefits to coaching at Concordia versus at Dawson. “The support from the university is unbelievable,” the first-year head coach said. “At Dawson we were supported, but even just having a locker room, field, and our own space [here at Concordia] is amazing.”
When the Stingers hired Barrieau, she said her goal as a coach was to make sure her players have a 100 per cent graduation rate. She said she’s working with Craig Beemer, the head coach of the men’s rugby team, and the Stingers’s academic coordinator, to make sure the players’ academic needs are fulfilled.
“One of the big things for me is to try to see and identify problems [players might be having] before they happen,” Barrieau said. The head coach also said she understands the overwhelming pressure of being a student-athlete. After all, Barrieau was one herself.
“People have been there and it’s important to talk about it,” Barrieau said. “If people are willing to talk, I am willing to listen […] Maybe they even just need a night off training to sleep.”
Outside of Concordia, Barrieau is also a high school teacher at Laval Junior Academy, and is teaching eighth grade French this year. She’s been teaching in the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board for a decade now.
“At that point in their lives, students are much younger and are still figuring themselves out in a different way than the athletes here,” Barrieau said. “There are some drive differences too. School is not for every kid and those kids kind of get pushed to the side, but in university, everyone tries to be more inclusive because they want to be here.”
“The way I am on the field is quite similar to how I am in the classroom,” Barrieau added. She said the majority of skills she uses as a teacher come from coaching, such as “time management, organizational skills, clarity and communication, love and compassion, drive, desire and competitiveness.”
As a rookie head coach, Barrieau deals with a young Stingers team. A handful of veterans left the team, most notably Frédérique Rajotte and Alex Tessier. Rajotte was the Stingers’s female athlete of the year, and was named U Sports MVP for the 2017 season. On this year’s team, out of 28 players, there are 21 in their first or second season, with only two fifth-years.
“We had a pretty big turnover rate so [the challenges are] getting people up to speed on our basic concepts, vocabulary and systems,” Barrieau said. “We’re not starting from scratch, but close to it. We’re a very young team so we also don’t have tons of on-field and game experience.”
Although Tessier graduated from the team at the end of last season, she joined Barrieau’s staff to work as an assistant coach this season. Barrieau said Tessier offered to give back to the women’s rugby program as soon as she finished playing for the team, and is excited to have her.
“I don’t have enough nice things to say about Alex Tessier,” Barrieau said. “Having her here is amazing because she has such a high level of rugby knowledge […] She’s just a real, quality person to have around.”
The Stingers women’s rugby team started the season with a win and a loss, and won the Kelly-Anne Drummond Cup on Sept. 16 against McGill.
Main photo by Hannah Ewen.