For a few years now, Brooke Dugas has been a key contributor with a largely 2006-born group of local female soccer talent, a solid handful of who have aspirations to play beyond their secondary school careers.
Shame the same can’t be said for the flag football crew with whom she has also excelled.
For as much as the 16-year-old Grade 11 student at École secondaire l’Horizon has helped the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) Impact in their quest to hold prominence on a provincial level, Dugas arguably plays an even more significant role on the football field, the feature back for an Aigles team that captured the SDSSAA Division B banner last fall and now finds itself fighting for a playoff spot another level up.
But as most are aware, flag football does not hold the same post-secondary possibilities as soccer does — a reality that plays into the mindset that Dugas and her teammates carry into their respective outdoor sport outings.
“In soccer, there’s maybe a little more focus, especially in training,” she said. “With flag, we’re also there for the fun. You don’t see as much of a competitive side at flag. Nobody is worried about scouts watching. People are more focused in soccer – not that they are not focused in flag, but in soccer, they have a vision for their future.”
Having to balance differing athletic pursuits is hardly a new challenge for Brooke Dugas as the long-time dancer turned multi-sport aficionado dabbled in pretty much everything.
“In grades six and seven, sports started to get a little more competitive at school (École Notre-Dame – Hanmer),” she said. “I did sports all year round – floor hockey, basketball, volleyball, track – that’s where I really noticed the love for all of the sports.”
Yet for as much as the lure of varsity OUA/NCAA/OCAA soccer is a valid one, Dugas was not about to change her modus operandi simply because she had reached high-school age.
“I love doing everything; I like to keep busy,” she said. “Having soccer competitively as my main sport that I do, I will put a little more time aside for that – especially for extra training during the week.
“But I do try and make time for anything that seems fun to me. High school is all about the experience.”
Truth be told, it’s not as though her flag football enjoyment comes without any inkling of competitiveness – not with coach Ryan Kirwan at the helm.
“He really understands the game and he’s super invested,” Dugas said. “He will send us a great game recap at 11:30 at night.
“For me, it’s about the fun, but with his coaching, it’s also pushed me a little bit further. Yes, it’s for fun – but we have a good coach, we have a good team and we do want to win.”
Dugas has been critical to the success that Horizon has seen these past two years. Blessed with sprinter-like speed and the agility that comes with avoiding defenders in the 11-v-11 game that is competitive soccer, the youngest of two girls is a bona fide game-breaker, one of those players who can single-handedly snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
“For me, as a running back, I find them (soccer and flag football) very similar,” said Dugas. “As a midfielder in soccer, I do a lot of running up and down the field. I have that endurance, but I also have the speed for both.
“In soccer, when you have a defender approaching, you might stop and observe your surroundings and see what players might be available for a pass,” she continued. “In flag football, you kind of have to use your knowledge to try and get around a defender because you don’t have that option to pass to as many people.”
Yet for all of the accolades that have so deservedly been heaped in her direction, Dugas is quick to note the constant that is prevalent in pretty much every single team sport environment.
“It’s nice to get that recognition that you are doing something good for the team, but every player on the field has a job to do,” she said. “We have defenders catching interceptions and quarterbacks making nice throws. Everyone has their own job.”
And whether it’s in flag football or in soccer, Brooke Dugas is awfully darned good at her job.
Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.