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Right where she belongs


Armed with playing experience, education and a passion for helping players develop, Noémie Tanguay has found success behind the bench

“I’m a players’ coach who makes you feel good about yourself, and that on
the ice is where you belong.”

That’s how Noémie Tanguay describes herself when asked about what kind of
coach she believes she is.

This human approach is not only a source of pride for the young coach, it
is also the basis of all her teaching as an assistant with the Titans du
Cégep Limoilou.

“Whenever the players have difficulties, they know that my door is always
open. I am a non-judgmental person in life, so they feel they can confide
in me,” says Tanguay. “It’s such a pivotal time [in their lives], these are
ages where they’re discovering themselves as people, and I think it’s so
important to offer them a shoulder to lean on, other than their parents.”

To fully understand why Tanguay values this approach so much, one must
first understand her background in hockey. Growing up, the girls’ hockey
programs available to her were not as developed as they are today. She had
to play with the boys up to the U15 level before joining AA girls’
organizations in the Chaudière-Appalaches region. She then played in the
Limoilou organization from 2011 to 2014.

In the Tanguay family, hockey has always been a family affair. Noémie’s
older brothers, Maxime and Frédéric, have both played at competitive
levels. Their father, Stéphane, would travel to arenas across the province
to cheer on his children when he wasn’t behind the bench coaching. The
constant presence in the stands of their biggest fans, mother Marcelle and
sister Véronique, was always a source of comfort for everyone.

“I was often the only girl on the ice, so if I didn’t have them behind me,
I probably wouldn’t have continued [playing],” Tanguay says. “My dad
coached me for a few years and he’s always been involved in his community.
It will four years since he passed away from brain cancer on June 17, but
he still inspires me a lot. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without him
and my mom, brothers and little sister, who have always been my number-one
supporters.”

After winning three provincial championships in as many years with the
Titans, including two as captain, Tanguay put an end to her playing career
to jump behind the bench as an assistant coach. Under her tutelage, the
team has won four of the last five provincial titles.

While the success was instantaneous, her coaching debut was not without its
challenges. First, there was the closeness the Titans alum had with many of
the young women she was now coaching.

“There were girls on the team that I had played with for one or two years,”
Tanguay recalls. “Whether you like it or not, by becoming a coach you’re
definitely going to break your friendship with them in a way. I found that
really hard. But I knew it was something that was normal if I wanted to
make sure I had their respect and made my transition smooth.”

But the challenges didn’t end there. The Titans’ successes were intimately
tied to the recruitment of players who came in with increased skill and
talent as the years went by.

“As a former captain, I had a good understanding of what it took to get the
team moving in the right direction year after year,” Tanguay says. “But the
girls coming in [to our program] today are so good on the technical side
that sometimes I feel like I can’t help them with much on that level.”

“I think I’m a good coach because I’m articulate and I’m always positive.
But I’m not a great technician on the ice – I’ve never been the best player
– so I think it’s more my human side that sets me apart.”

Élizabeth Giguère, a U18 worlds silver medallist and Team Canada alumna who
played under Tanguay with the Titans, is quick to agree.

“Noémie may say she doesn’t have the best technique, but you don’t have to
be able to do everything yourself to teach it,” Giguère acknowledges. “The
kids loved her so much because she gave them a lot of tips.

“She was someone I wasn’t afraid to talk to. She’s approachable, and I
think that’s really her greatest quality. To approach her for advice and
walk away with an answer every time is something I really appreciated about
her.”

Seven seasons into her coaching career, Tanguay is not shy admitting she is
still learning. Although the experience she has accumulated over the years
will always help her refine certain aspects of her job, her education also
plays a big role.

“In addition to my background as a player, I took a lot of courses as part
of my bachelor’s degree that opened my eyes so much,” she says. “Not just
with ethics and fairness in sports, but also with everything from sports
psychology, harassment in sports, doping. These are all things that I am
able to touch on and things that I read a lot about. That’s where I think I
come in to make a contribution to the team. I would say that’s my primary
strength.”

Through her studies, her own experiences and the different coaching courses
she takes every year, Tanguay is always looking to improve. And always
looking to ger her players talking.

This approach, which relies on human contact, interaction, transparency and
honesty, makes her a coach who is not only respected, but adored by her
players. For Giguère, it is no surprise Tanguay was named the national
winner of the BFL Female Coach of the Year award in the high-performance
category.

“She was just starting out as a coach with me and I thought she was already
good,” Giguère says. “With her charisma, the way she approaches people, the
way she talks to others and the smile she always has on her face, she makes
it fun to come to the arena and work with her.”



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