Coach looks for heart and talent to build team for 2017

OpenWomensSoftball2013.2 RosemaryT.2013 MorrieF2013Softball coach Rosemary Theriault has simple advice for anyone who hasn’t been to Israel: “Get on a plane and go.” The 40-year coaching veteran had such a good time co-coaching Maccabi Canada’s open women’s softball team to a silver medal at the 2013 Maccabiah Games that she’s convinced anyone who has the opportunity to visit Israel should do so immediately.

Lucky for her, next summer Theruiault will have the opportunity to return, as she was named head coach of the women’s softball team for the 2017 Maccabiah Games.

2013 was the first time Theriault, who is not Jewish, had been to Israel. She is, however, a very well travelled coach, having not only coached the Whitby Eagles to multiple national championships in various parts of Canada but having also gone overseas to Europe to coach the North American select team at World Cup events in 1999 and 2000.

That being said, the 2013 Maccabiah Games were still an eye opening experience for her.

“I’m not Jewish, but to be able to embrace the whole venture and to meet the great people that are out there and over there … is just phenomenal. I just can’t say enough about it,” Theriault said in a phone interview last month. “[Maccabi Canada] did everything possible to make sure that we got the culture…Everything from start to finish was first class all the way.”

Recruiting players for any Canadian national team in any sport can be a challenging thing because of geography: Canada is such a vast country that to truly be a ‘national’ team, it costs time and money to travel from coast to coast holding tryouts.

Morrie Frydberg, Maccabi Canada’s softball chairman, is on a mission to make this problem go away. He is in charge of all three softball teams for the 2017 Maccabiah Games: the open women’s team, open mens’ team, and the master’s team. In early June, he and Theriault flew out to Calgary to hold a tryout, in addition to doing some scouting in B.C.

“One of my mandates is to find all the players from across Canada,” Frydberg said last month. “It’s easy to take 12 or 14 people just in Ontario but that wouldn’t be doing my job.”

Frydberg said that since Theriault has come aboard, scouting on a national scale has gotten easier. But that was far from the only reason she was chosen as head coach for 2017.

“She is very well respected right across Canada so her tentacles go out right across Canada,” he said. “We did have some other applicants [for head coach] but I found that in her situation there was no real reason not to be chosen to coach … because her qualifications were as good as anybody.”

Ashley Kochman, director of athletics for Maccabi Canada, is quick to point out that although there are many returning coaches for the games, not all returning coaches are guaranteed a spot.

“Having experience with us is definitely a plus but at the same time we love getting new applicants because we do run a transparent and fair process,” Kochman said. “So while there are cases where past applicants will get selected again because they truly are the best candidate for the role, there are also cases where past coaches aren’t selected because someone has come out that is potentially more suitable for the role.

When it comes to player selection, Theriault knows it’s not just about caliber, but about players with heart. She believes winning goes far beyond having just talent.

“You can have the best athletes in the world but if they don’t come together and believe in what they’re wearing, in other words ‘I’m playing for Canada. I’m playing for the Jewish people, for my Jewish heritage,’ then you won’t win,” Theriault said. “We’re looking for team players. We’re not looking for one player to carry the load. It’s a team sport. Everybody has to pull together.”

Frydberg agrees, but also says it’s important to pick players who will appreciate the experience.

“When [the coaches] make their selections, they look at more than just the player’s ability,” he said. “They look at the background, they look at the cohesiveness of these athletes: are they going to get along. We’re a family for two weeks in Israel, so it’s important that everyone gets along well.”

And when that happens, no matter the on field results, there’s nothing quite like it.

“In 2013, we took probably seven or eight new girls on the women’s team and you know the last thing they said to me is, ‘Please invite me back.’ They had such a good time.” Frydberg said.