It wasn’t as though Carter Grenier was dragged kicking and screaming through his positional change in competitive soccer.
Well, come to think of it, there may have been a fair bit of kicking involved for the talented centreback with the GSSC Impact U17 boys’ team.
Screaming? - Hopefully not quite so much.
“It was a difficult process for myself,” reflected the grade 12 student at Collège Notre-Dame. “I was always playing up top, playing winger, striker, midfield – somewhere where I could score goals. That’s what I loved doing.”
“When I hit the competitive ages, I was the tallest kid on my team, so the coaches suggested putting me back on defense for my height and strength. I wasn’t a big fan of it – but I stuck with it.”
That’s likely a good thing as the young man who first took the pitch at the age of four as part of the Nickel Centre Minor Soccer program in Falconbridge is now eyeing the possibility of playing at the post-secondary level, most certainly on the back-line, where he is now pretty much completely at home.
“It takes time and practice to perfect my timing, my positioning, my communication, my touches on the ball and the way I can send the ball up,” suggested Grenier. “I couldn’t get it right at first, but I’ve been practicing this for multiple years. Now, it’s starting to come to me; I’m getting good at it.”
Grenier has been a big part of a second half surge that has seen the Impact lads turn around a season in which they sat at 1-4-0 at the end of June, unbeaten since then in Central Soccer
League play and also walking away with the championship banner at the recent Champions Showcase tournament in Ottawa.
“I’ve learned to adjust to the league that we play in now,” he said. “You understand how these players move and how they play. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely become easier to know how to play against these players.”
In addition to the help that he has received from Impact head coach Nick Walker and other technical tips from GSSC staff, Grenier has also taken advantage of some of the various combine weekends that bring together many of the top young players in the province, mostly older teens with an eye on university or college play.
“I’ve been to a couple of them where the play is elevated; you can really see the difference,” said Grenier. “That’s helped me out a lot learning new techniques and finding different ways to defend. It all adds up.”
Known more for his physical play, walking that line between being super aggressive and tenacious defensively while not committing foul after foul, Grenier is aware now, more than ever, to be vigilant of those opponents who tend to cause him the most grief.
“The speed guys are the toughest for me,” he said. “Those kids will blow by you. You have to lay the body very early, get on them and shut them down as soon as they get the ball. Don’t even let them turn; get right up in their grill.”
It doesn’t hurt at all that from a tactical standpoint, coach Walker has implemented some strategies that help play to the strength of his defenders.
“We like to push the (back) line up higher, not to the point where we would get burned all the time, but enough that they can’t turn and shoot,” explained Grenier.
“They’re not close enough to the net to do that. And even if we do get burned high, there will be someone in the back line that is there to recover.”
With the pandemic playing havoc with what would normally be the lead-in period to possible post-secondary recruitment the past two years, Grenier and company are thankful that they have some key supporters in their corner, guiding them through what is a difficult process even at the best of times.
“Our coaches were definitely a big help, the technical directors and everybody like that, just making sure that we know about all of the many, many options that exist,” said Grenier.
“The kids that are motivated are the ones that strive for those and would be more than happy to play anywhere they can.”
It sure sounds like Carter Grenier is one who fits the bill.
“I’m always at practice, always there early, always staying late, practicing with the older teams, finding something, anything to do that’s associated with the game,” he said.
Doing whatever it takes apparently is part of his M.O. (modus operandi).
Even moving from attacker to defender, apparently, at a time when that wasn’t necessarily his position of choice.
Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.