Saadia Ashraf (left), Georgina Paull (centre) and Andreanne Dupont-Parent (right) marked the moment all three were involved with the Alouettes' training camp this year (Photo supplied, Andreanne Dupont-Parent)
Despite the many differences, Andreanne Dupont-Parent sees the similarities between operating a CFL team and managing a club in the fledgling Central Canadian Women’s League.
“It’s just a different scale,” she said.
Dupont-Parent is the commissioner of the three-team CCWL and general manager of the Montreal Blitz. She has spent the last several weeks at the Montreal Alouettes training camp as one of nine participants in the CFL’s Women in Football Program.
“It’s a great learning curve,” said Dupont-Parent. “I’m learning a lot about the business aspects of things, recruitment, how a training camp is run.
“So far what I found is, the difference between women’s football and here is the scale. In women’s football we have smaller teams. Here, there’s a lot more players, more logistics, more everything.”
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The goal of the Women in Football Program is to promote inclusivity, diversity and equity throughout the league. Many of the women involved are looking to improve their coaching skills but Dupont-Parent is more interested in management and football operations.
While with the Alouettes she has worked with Eric Deslauries, senior director of football operations and sat in on meetings with general manager Danny Maciocia.
“I’m here to gain experience in all of the spheres of the team, all the different aspects,” she said. “At the end of the day, managing a team (like) the Montreal Blitz you have to touch everything from logistics, to players, to recruiting.”
Working with the front office staff and spending time on the field during practices has given Dupont-Parent a hands-on learning experience.
“It’s seeing the concepts you learn in terms of management being applied,” she said. “You need to work as a team to make sure everything works in the end.
“There is the logistics of moving a team around, of planning practices, building a schedule so everybody is super efficient and know what they have to do. The professional aspect of this camp, how it’s run, it’s nice to see and experience.”
The Central Canadian Women’s League was launched in 2021. Besides the Blitz, there is the Quebec City Phoenix and Ottawa Rebels. In the next seven years Dupont-Parent hopes to see the league grow to four or five teams in both Ontario and Quebec.
The knowledge Dupont-Parent has gained with the Alouettes can be applied to both building the league and operating the Blitz.
“Being a newer league, I’m hoping to integrate some of (the Alouettes) procedures and the way they manage things,” she said. “At the team level, it’s just being more efficient with the different aspects of managing a team, writing reports and building that structure to make sure that everybody is on the same page.”
All the Alouette staff have been supportive and helpful.
“They understand I may not have the level of knowledge they do just because of their years of exposure to that level of football,” said Dupont-Parent. “They’re very welcoming, everybody’s very professional.
“Even with their busy schedule they’re willing to give help. It’s really a great setting.”
Dupont-Parent’s road to football began on the ski slope. Growing up, the Montreal native was a competitive alpine skier, specializing in giant slalom. After high school she started playing football, first as a defensive lineman then linebacker.
Skiing and football seem to share little in common but Dupont-Parent can draw parallel between the sports.
“Without the athletic background I was taught in alpine skiing I don’t think I would have been able to perform on the football field,” she said. “I think the alpine skiing training was one of the best training I could of have had.
“It’s very similar. It’s power, it’s quick feet, being stable, knowing how your body moves in space. It’s very similar in terms of the fundamentals you need to have to get through a season without too many injuries and to perform.”
Dupont-Parent was recruited to play for the Blitz, a team that has existed since 2001 and was part of the Independent Women’s Football League, an American football league that had its last season in 2018.
She was also a member of the 2010 Team Canada that lost to the U.S. in the final of the inaugural IFAF Women’s World Championships.
As a player Dupont-Parent became interested in management.
“I have an industrial design background,” she said. “I’ve been lucky to be able to manage some projects. I was slowly introduced to the management aspect of the team.”
Dupont-Parent misses playing but knew it was best to concentrate on her roles as Blitz GM and league commissioner.
“I didn’t think I could give my 100 per cent on the field,” she said. “I really want to give all the athletes the most worry free experience so they can show up to practice, train hard and go home and have the support and the logistics taken care of.”
Having a women’s football league in Quebec and Ontario will help the growth of the sport.
“It’s about exposure,” said Dupont-Parent. “Coaches in well known and established programs don’t know there’s an option for women.
“They have girls or women playing but don’t know where to send them when they’re at a certain age. It’s about knowing the team exists and they can play football.”
The CFL’s involvement also raises the sport’s visibility.
“Collaboration with the Alouettes and these programs will help greatly,” said Dupont-Parent.