HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Coaches come and coaches go.
Carleton University has experienced that sport’s reality on two occasions so far in 2022.
The Ravens women’s hockey program saw the departure in May of head coach Pierre Alain, after seven consecutive losing seasons. But this week, Carleton welcomed the arrival of Stacey Colarossi as the team’s fifth head coach.
In mid-January, Carleton announced Steve Sumarah was no longer the Ravens’ football head coach, after a decade of service. By March, Corey Grant, a former Canadian university and CFL player and coach, was appointed to lead the Ravens into the 2022 season.
Sumarah, a Halifax native, returned home this week and is back on the campus of Saint Mary’s University for his second shift as head coach of the football Huskies.
Colarossi is extremely familiar with Ontario women’s university and provincial/national high-performance hockey.
After serving nine seasons as the lead associate coach at York University, she was the founding head coach of the Laurentian University women’s hockey program and was the Voyageurs’ only head coach from 2012 to 2021. The program was axed in 2021 as part of a major university financial downsizing.
Colarossi’s university coaching experience extends beyond the RSEQ as she was head coach for silver-medal-winning Team Canada at the 2019 FISU Winter Universiade Games. She also was the head coach for the U Sports all-star team at the 2017 and 2018 Hockey Canada Summer Showcase.
At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Colarossi was an associate head coach for the Chinese women’s hockey team, which placed ninth in the final standings out of 10 countries and missed qualifying for the quarterfinals by one point.
China had one win, one overtime win by shootout and two losses in group play during its home Olympics.
Colarossi also is part of the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association high-performance program. She was an assistant coach for the Team Ontario U18 squad, which attended two Canadian championships. Colarossi also led Ontario to a silver medal at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.
“There were moments that were harder than I ever imagined and there were moments that were more rewarding than I ever imagined they would be,” Colarossi, 46, told That Sudbury Sports Guy Randy Pascal in a story for the Sudbury Star, about her Olympic experience.
“Professionally and personally, I probably got more out of the experience than I anticipated I would. Preparing for an Olympics is hard. Being away from family is difficult, but it’s 100 per cent worth it because I’m now an Olympic coach and no one can ever take that from you.”
Colarossi started to assist Team China head coach Brian Idalski in the summer of 2021 and was eight months away from her partner Sarah Forbes and their eight-year-old daughter Rylan.
During the past seven university seasons, the Ravens were either in last place or near the bottom of the standings. The club’s best record in that time was 5-15 in 2016.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with the leadership team of Carleton athletics and be immersed in the Ravens’ culture,” Colarossi said in the Ravens’ press release announcing her hiring.
“There is work to do to build on the current framework and take this program to another level within U Sports.”
Colarossi’s achievements at Laurentian extended beyond the arena. She was equally proud of her team’s 97-per-cent graduation rate and seeing 71 per cent of her student-athletes achieve Academic All Canadian status (80-per-cent average or more) from 2016-21.
The Voyageurs’ women’s hockey program also connected to Sudbury’s school literacy and youth mentorship programs as well as community fund raising projects.
Off the ice, Colarossi is a member of the NHL Female Mentorship Program and a Chartered Professional Coach.
Meanwhile, Sumarah has reconnected with the Saint Mary’s football program, where he previously spent 14 seasons on the sidelines. He was head coach from 2006-11, after serving as offensive co-ordinator from 1998-2005.
He was a vital part of many successful seasons as the Huskies won 10 Atlantic University Sport championships, competed in five Vanier Cup finals and won the national title in 2001 and 2002.
“It’s a huge honour to be named head coach of the Saint Mary’s Huskies,” Sumarah said in the university’s press release. “To get a chance to do what I love, in the city that I was born and raised, is an amazing opportunity.
“This is a school I went to; my dad and uncles went here. The history that my family has at Saint Mary’s and in Halifax is very deep, and to be back here in this position is a very exciting moment for myself and my family.”
In his half dozen years as the Huskies’ head coach, Sumarah was selected Canadian university coach of the year in 2009 and the Atlantic conference coach of the year three times. He had a regular-season record of 35-12 and an overall mark of 42-18.
Carleton sacked its football program in 1998, but reintroduced it in 2012 for the 2013 OUA season. Sumarah was signed as the Ravens’ 13th head coach, but he experienced eight up-and-down seasons during his stay. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 season.
After opening with an 0-8 season in 2013, the Ravens improved quickly over the next three seasons – 4-4, 5-3, 6-2. But Carleton was a sub .500 team overall during Sumarah’s last four seasons – 3-5, 5-3, 4-4 and 2-4 (2021).
“I like to consider myself as a people person and I think very strongly of our student athletes. My core values as a coach are trust, communication and accountability,” added Sumarah, who also has served as head coach of Canada’s national junior football team since 2016 and won an IFAF U19 world junior championship in 2018.
“Those come first and, if our team can take care of those things, then that leads me into the next three priorities: making sure our athletes are strong, graduating students, responsible and dedicated citizens and finally playing a great exciting brand of football.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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