After a four year hiatus, the International Military Sports Council (CISM) Canadian Women’s Soccer Team will finally have the chance to compete in an international tournament this year. From May 24 to June 4, the team will be competing in France against eight other nations.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for us that they brought the program back. It’s an absolute honour to represent Canada and the CAF at an international stage. I’m really looking forward to this tournament,” said Lt(N) Renée MacLellan, striker on the team.
In 2012, the CISM Women’s Soccer team played their last international tournament and then the program went into hiatus for budgetary reasons. MacLellan, who joined the program in 2010, brings experience to the team having played in France, Brazil and Germany before the gap.
Though the competition is tough, according to MacLellan, the experience is worthwhile.
“It’s been an amazing experience. It’s extremely hard not to be hyped up and excited to play once you put a Canada jersey on and step onto the field,” recalled MacLellan.
MacLellan has been playing soccer competitively since she was 16.
“Soccer has always been a part of my life, for as long as I can remember,” added MacLellan.
Incidentally, one of her first coaches, when she played in her teens, is also her current coach with the CISM team: Kevin Greig.
“Anything i’ve accomplished as a player, I know that Kevin is one of the most passionate and knowledgeable coaches I’ve every had. I probably owe any of my growth and accomplishments to him, as a player. To have him as a coach again, for me, I’m absolutely proud to be one of his students. I think the three of them together [Greig, assistant coaches Dean Gillam and Aret Akcakiryan] have prepared us very well for the tournament,” stated MacLellan.
Head coach Kevin Greig is assigned with the difficult task of the women prepare for the competition, despite their distances and scheduling conflicts.
“It has it’s challenges. We, as a group, have to work extremely hard away from the pitch. We have only formally trained three times as a program over the past year and a half. Not ideal, but we supplement the lack of formal camps by sending out a lot of tactical and fitness information,” said Greig.
To make sure the team is staying in shape for the competition, players are required to send fitness results once a month and are occasionally sent homework.
“For example after the last camp in Victoria, we sent the captains a couple of assignments to generate the team’s goals for France,” added Greig.
Coaching a team from distances is no new challenge for the head coach, who was assistant coach to Shelley Osmond when the team competed in Germany in 2012. He’s also coached multiple university teams and currently coaches the League One Kingston Clipper’s women team.
With only a few weeks left until the tournament begins, Greig believes his team is well prepared.
“The team will be focused on the task of winning their first match at international level. We have the best players available to accomplish that task. Our preparation for France will re-visit team shape, counter-attack, team defending and awareness.
“We will need to be disciplined and ready to deal with a higher than normal speed of play. We have been fortunate that the Vancouver Whitecaps ladies program, University of Victoria and League One’s Kingston Clippers have been available to play us in our tune-up matches. I’m positive that the aforementioned teams have prepared us well for the calibre of teams we will face in France,” said Greig.
Though the team has faced unique challenges during training, the women are all in and ready to compete, even the first-timers.
“It means, honestly everything. I’ve never had the opportunity to wear the national uniform before. It’s very overwhelming feeling to wear the jersey that says Canada on it,” said Captain Kim O’Rourke, one of the team’s defenders.
The Canadian Women’s Soccer team met for a pre-camp at CFB Kingston from May 16-21. They will fly over to France on the 21, three days before the tournament.
Results will be posted on the CISM Canada Soccer Facebook page.