Women’s soccer has witnessed explosive growth in recent years. Here on Vancouver Island, Brian Royer-Collard was the spark that lit that fuse.
Royer-Collard moved to Cordova Bay in 1975 and immediately became involved in soccer, helping to bring the first girls’ league to life in 1976.
“There was a lot of opposition from the regular soccer clubs,” he said. “The girls required fields and the fields were at a premium then because we didn’t have the turf fields we have now so in the winter the fields were few and far between.”
But Royer-Collard persevered to help girls soccer get off the ground. “The funny thing is, in Cordova Bay, through the years the girls won far more trophies than the boys did,” he says with a chuckle.
The 84-year-old retired from regular coaching duties last year, but still coaches a Saanich Fusion team in the women’s summer league. His passion for the game and the people who play have brought numerous accolades over the years. Royer-Collard was at the Beach House Restaurant Tuesday night to accept his latest honour, being named Mentor/Coach of the Year for the Cordova Bay Community Leadership Awards.
But it’s the honours on the field that mean the most to Royer-Collard. He recalls coaching his daughter when she was 10 and the only competition they could find were teams of 16-year-olds. They lost every game that first year, but his team of 11-year-olds managed to lock up third place the following year.
“For the next seven years, we only lost one game,” said Royer-Collard, who can still recall the goal that brought that solitary loss.
Over the years, he has coached his son and daughter as well as his grandchildren. His great-grandchildren live in Sooke, “so it wasn’t practical to coach them.”
He said at one period, they were coaching five teams out of his house.
“I was coaching two, my wife Jeanne she was coaching two and my daughter was coaching one. And that was before the advent of email so there was a lot of phone calls going back and forth.”
But his contributions to the Cordova Bay Soccer Association go far beyond coaching. He was a longtime referee and was instrumental in bringing electric lighting to the fields and has taken an active role in the maintenance of the turf fields.
Royer-Collard said the most important thing a coach can do is to make the practices interesting.
“Then you have to have a good knowledge of the game and teach the three basic skills,” he said. “To me the most important one was fitness. You can have all the skills you like, but if you don’t have fitness you’re not going to win. Then you have the skills and the theory of the game.”
And true to form, Royer-Collard stands on the side of the hundreds, if not thousands, of girls he has coached over the years.
“Boys just want to get out there and run and kick the ball around. Girls will listen to you because they’re really keen to learn.”