Published on 2nd February 2023
From player to coach, there is only a fins’ beat ! Eighth at the last World Championships in Quebec City, Marie-Renée Blanchet is now preparing for the next ones in Australia as the Canadian Women’s Elite team coach.
What do you remember about the eighth place at home in Quebec ?
I was a player at the time and I knew it was going to be my last world championship. I made the decision before. It was really special to finish at home, I have very fun memories of it. We still train at that pool so you still get caught up in those moments.
At the same time, it was an extremely disappointing result for our team so we have mixed memories. I love talking about the competition, having everybody there, how the pool looks, the atmosphere… It was so fun, but at the same time it was a really disappointing result for the Canadian team.
We hadn’t really set a target in terms of where we wanted to be. We had an excellent quarter-final against New Zealand where it was 1-1 at half-time. We were really in it and we could smell it. After that game, we just never recovered physically and mentally from it. We really left it all on the bottom and from there, it was really hard for us to refocus”
New Zealand was a stronger team, but the small details made all the difference. We realized it.
We could have won the next few games we played, but we didn’t have enough mentally or physically. We learnt from it and it really motivated us.
How does it feel to go from player to coach ?
It came shortly after Quebec. We had a few conversations with the girls. The process for the next world championships started shortly after Quebec. It was only a few months later that I put my name it and I was named coach. In November 2018, I think. So it was a really quick turnover for me mentally, but that meant we had the two years leading to 2020 to get used to it.
How did it go ?
It’s going really well ! I was the team captain for a long time and I also worked with the coaches at designing our physical preparation at the time. I feel like I was already in a leadership position with most of the players. We have few new faces so overall it’s going really well. The girls have been amazing at managing that transition. I don’t think I’m being too directive in my coaching. It needs to come from the players. We have so many experienced players. It’s more of a partnership with them at the moment and I really enjoy it.
Seven players from the 2018 campaign are present. Is it important to maintain continuity ?
Coming into the selection, I really wanted to have the best team possible, because we managed to keep our physical programme alive during the pandemic as best as we could. We trained together on Zoom, we did a lot of meetings so I feel like we were able to develop the new players. Obviously, the players that are returning are a very strong core. Some of them have been here since 1998 ! Melanie Johnson is a legend. I think she’s going to play her twelfth World Championship. We have other players who were there in 2006, who have won medals for this country, some since 2012 and others who have joined us, so it’s a really good mix of veterans and newer players.
Do you have a specific training method ?
I think most countries are catching up to understanding the importance of physical preparation and having a periodise training. I think that we might be one of the first countries to do that. If you look at 2013 when we weren’t really training under a planned programme, we were losing 15-0 to teams like New Zealand. When we started really training as a group and aiming at developing the same system and having a periodise training … We still finished in eighth place, but in a position where you tied 1-1 at halftime against New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
Even though on paper Canada has not improved, our actual performances at Worlds are better so we hope to continue to do better at the next.
What is Canada’s target for the World Championship ?
We had a discussion about it with the team at the Battle at Altitude (Denver). I feel like in 2018, every team in the top 8 had a shot at the title. It was the small details that made the difference. When you get to that point, it’s really the execution of the small details. We’re really working hard on that. We’re going for it. We want to play the best we can and I think you can only do that if you aim for the title.
Pingback: INTERVIEW : “Certaines joueuses sont là depuis 1998 !” – Marie-Renée Blanchet – UWH News – Le média du Hockey Subaquatique