–By Ottawa Sportspage, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
There are days where veteran soccer coach Joé Fournier has to pinch himself to make sure it’s all real.
One such moment came at the end of September when he brought members of his Louis-Riel Soccer Academy to the national championships tournament for Canadian FCB Escola centres.
That opportunity was an extension of the partnership between his high school’s sports-study program and BCN Sports, which sees two coaches from the famed FC Barcelona club provide on-field direction for each Louis-Riel training session.
“The tournament was an amazing experience,” highlights Fournier, noting the trip to Mississauga early in the school year brought his players closer together, and allowed them to experience the unique Barça values and passion shared by everyone involved with the centres from coast to coast and beyond.
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Working alongside a storied Champions League powerhouse club is quite aways from Fournier’s coaching roots in his small Eastern Ontario hometown of St-Bernardin almost 30 years ago.
“You know, it was a big decision for a country boy to come into the city,” smiles Fournier, who joined the staff at Louis-Riel when its sports-study program began in 2005. “But this is what I’d been dreaming of.”
During his career, Fournier has worked with some of the best soccer minds in the area and around the world. The NCCP Level 4-certified coach has coached with many Eastern Ontario clubs such as Glengarry, Rockland, Cumberland, Parmar Futuro, and the regional district itself. The past University of Ottawa Gee-Gees assistant has also been mentored by the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea FC in England, Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and Ottawa Fury in Canada, and of course FC Barcelona.
Fournier’s mentality has always been to push forward and continue learning. The soccer program at Louis-Riel is a product of that thinking, whether it’s technological and equipment enhancements, training and competition opportunities, coaching staff additions, or establishing a groundbreaking partnership with a global football titan in FCB.
“We’re trying to improve every day,” Fournier underlines. “Whether it’s little things that can add up to make a big difference, or big things too, we’re just bringing it up a notch all the time.”
Fournier pinches himself at first, but then realizes he’s not particularly surprised when he sees Louis-Riel grads like Jonathan David and Vanessa Gilles making an impact internationally. David, 18, recently made his historic debut with Team Canada – becoming the youngest player to ever score for our senior men’s national team – while Gilles signed with French club Bordeaux in one of the world’s top professional women’s leagues.
“This is what we’re all about,” notes Fournier, who has watched many more grads go on to play university-college soccer throughout North America. “We want our players to move on to the next level and we want them to be engaged in the game for as long as possible.”
As much as Fournier loves seeing his players perform on big stages, he explains that the daily work with his student-athletes is what he savours the most.
“No matter where we go, I always have a ball, because I know that will bring people in,” adds Fournier, whose favourite sport since age 4 has always been the beautiful game.
“For me, that’s what football is: it’s the camaraderie, the respect, the international flavour to it. That’s what I love about the sport, that’s what I love sharing with my players, and I feel blessed that we’re able to live that every day at Louis-Riel.”