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Awards

U SPORTS members honoured for CCAA Hall of Fame careers

Mathieu Rousseau

On June 12, 10 new members were inducted into the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Hall of Fame as part of the 2018 class. Six of these new members later joined U SPORTS programs as a player or coach for the rest of their career.

Olivier Caron, Pascal Clément and Olga Hrycak will be honoured for their work as coaches while Gino Brousseau, Vicky Tessier and Varouj Gurunlian will be rewarded for their successful athletic careers.

From the Cégep de Garneau Élans to the Laval Rouge et Or

Olivier Caron got his first taste of coaching at the helm of the women’s volleyball program at Cégep Garneau.  In both 1997 and 1998, he won the CCAA women's volleyball Coach of the Year award.

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For Caron, this honour was a big surprise.

“It brings me back. It’s a beautiful tribute to my time in college sport. It must mean that we did great things at Garneau,” said Caron, who also stated that his best memory in his Cégep coaching career was winning the 1990 national championship.

For many at Cégep Garneau, Caron was much more than a coach. This is the case for Éric Lavigne, assistant director at Cégep Garneau’s Student and Community Affairs, who sees the man who brought home four CCAA national championships as a builder.

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“The structure we built in our volleyball program allowed other college sports to be successful because they used our program as a model, Caron explained. "I am thinking in particular of soccer. That's probably why I'm considered a builder.”

Caron then moved on to the varsity level as head coach of Université Laval's Rouge et Or women’s volleyball team for one season in the 1998-99 campaign, before returning to take over the team in the 2013-14 season. He has been there ever since.

A look back

“It was a surprise and at the same time it took me way, way back. I’ve been with the Rouge et Or for 26 years now,” said new inductee Pascal Clément, also a coach at Laval.

While completing his studies at Laval, Clément took a position as assistant coach of the Limoilou Titans. And despite what his 30 years behind the bench of a volleyball team might suggest, Clément did not initially intend to make a career out of coaching, hoping rather to make his mark in the world of theatre.

“It was at this time that I stopped playing volleyball to concentrate on theatre. In my first year, I did an internship at the Conservatory, but I wasn’t selected. The following year, in 1984, I auditioned at the National Theatre School and the Conservatoire d’art dramatique de Montréal and again, I wasn’t selected. So I decided to end my studies in theatre and change my pathway to physical education. At the same time, the opportunity arose to become an assistant coach with the Limoilou Titans because I had the time. The head coach was Clément Lemieux, who had been my teammate throughout my school career, in high school, junior, college and AAA. He asked me to be an assistant coach. When Lemieux got the chance in 1986 to become the first full time volleyball coach at Université Laval, I became head coach of the Titans.”

Another Hall of Fame honour

For Olga Hrycak, coach of the Champlain Cavaliers and Dawson Blues, this induction is not the first of her illustrious career, but it is still a humbling honour.

“I was at the varsity level for 12 years, but it wasn’t easy to leave Cégep since everything was going very well. At Champlain, there were 2000 students, so we were like a family. Those were remarkable years and being recognized by the CCAA is a great reward.”

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Her two CCAA men's basketball Coach of the Year awards are also great memories for Hrycak, who has achieved success wherever she has been.

Other honours include her induction into the 2017 Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame. In addition, when she took over the Citadins of the Université du Québec à Montreal, she became the first woman in Canada or the United States to ever coach a men's university basketball team.

After nearly 50 years of coaching experience, this true pillar of Canadian basketball announced her retirement in 2015.

 “The icing on the cake”

The icing on the cake. This is exactly what this induction represents for Gino Brousseau, who is also an inductee of the Volleyball Québec and Volleyball Canada Halls of Fame.

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Brousseau, a coach with the Laval Rouge et Or volleyball team as well as the development camp coordinator will be inducted in the athlete category of the CCAA Hall of Fame.

Unable to pinpoint a specific moment as the greatest memory of his career, Brousseau prefers to look at his career as an overall achievement. It is the sum of all the parts that makes him proud. And there is indeed much to be proud of. After his stint with the Rouge et Or, the former Limoilou Titans star had the chance to compete at the 1992 Olympic Games. He also played professionally in France and Japan. Still, Brousseau admits that his early years at the college level are what built the foundation for success:

“The Limoilou Titans taught me how to win; to play as a team; to be there for my teammates; to have a good work ethic. That's what made me successful in the rest of my time as an athlete.”

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Despite his decorated career as a player, the transition to a coaching role was not easy for Brousseau.

“The hardest thing at first is to make the transition from player to coach, because at the beginning you still have the reflexes of a player, like intensity and impulsiveness. And when you're a coach you have to be more relaxed, more thoughtful. Players need to feel that you’re in control of the situation,” said Brousseau, who now loves his coaching role, ever since he found the perfect balance.

Cégep: the root of success

Vicky Tessier had an illustrious playing career. Named to the All-Canadian team for five consecutive years during her time at McGill University and also named Player of the Year in 1997, Tessier said that all of this would not have been possible without her experience with the Cégep d'Ahuntsic Indiennes.

“My college career really gave me the basics to be able to perform at the varsity level," said Tessier, who considers her induction into the CCAA Hall of Fame as a great recognition of her career. "When I arrived in my first year at McGill, I didn’t have to go through the reserve team thanks to my collegiate experience, so I was able to make an immediate impact.” 

Today, Tessier holds the position of Head of Intercollegiate Teams at Cégep de l'Outaouais. Part of her job is to attend team games.

“I go to half of the games. It’s fantastic! It allows me to think back on my years as a player at this level,” said Tessier, who considers herself lucky to work in a field that she is passionate about.

CCAA: A launchpad for a successful career

Varouj Gurunlian is the sixth and last member of this year’s cohort to have also worked within U SPORTS.

Also inducted into the athlete category, Gurunlian was a member of the Dawson Blues basketball team that participated in the first two CCAA national basketball championships, leading his team to the championship title in that second year.

Once at the varsity level, Gurunlian showcased his talent at Laurentian University and St. Francis Xavier University. The first student-athlete from Dawson to ever be named a CCAA All-Canadian (1976), Gurunlian also represented his country on the national scene for several years.

“My time in the CCAA allowed me to complete my classes, then get noticed and be recruited by the national team, where I proudly represented Canada around the world for nine years.”

The U SPORTS team wishes to congratulate all individuals who have been inducted into the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Hall of Fame for their incredible careers.


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Mathieu is a fourth-year communications student at the Université de Sherbrooke. He has contributed to the university’s campus newspaper, Le Collectif, and was an intern at Hockey Québec. Mathieu’s passion for sports and his ease with words motivated him to work in the field of sports communications.

 

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