A remarkable presence on the Moncton Vipers defense, Marie-Noelle Beaulieu is ready to take her game on the global stage. Having been named to the Canadian National Team that will compete at the 2013 Women’s Tackle Football Championships, Beaulieu is aiming for a finish of golden glory.
“I started playing football in the eighth grade. I am from the Montreal suburbs, and football is huge in the province of Quebec. There are different types of football played, starting at all ages and levels. I began by participating in touch football.
"At the time I had just changed schools. Having always been athletic, I felt that joining a team sport was a good way to meet new people. I had never played soccer before and knew that it would be hard to be selected. Therefore, I went for the touch football team. My interest was not initially for the sport of football, but once I had a taste, there was no turning back!”
With the province of Quebec having produced top-notch talent in women’s football (Quebec was undefeated at the 2012 National Challenge Cup), Beaulieu was coached by one of the sport’s true pioneers. Saadia Ashraf, a quarterback for the Montreal Blitz and Team Canada, would become an influence in her career.
“From high school and touch football, I went on playing flag football afterwards. I was on a team coached by Saadia Ashraf, quarterback for Team Canada. It was thanks to her transferred passion for football that I continued playing. I had played at some semi-contact tournaments as well as trying out for the Montreal Blitz, which plays in an American league.”
In the Maritime Women’s Football League, Beaulieu was selected as an All-Star selection in 2012. Her season would be enhanced with a 49-42 victory over the favored Capital Area Lady Gladiators in SupHer Bowl IX (the MWFL’s championship game). Having only been in her second season, the opportunity to grab a title so quickly was a cherished one for her.
“Winning the MWFL title last year was huge! It was only my second year playing with the Vipers and even though we had difficult moments throughout the year, we worked hard together as a team and never gave up.
Being named on the MWFL All-Star Team was very exciting as it was proof that my hard work and training to be part of Team Atlantic was paying off. In the past, I had played mostly on defense as an Outside Linebacker, which is a position that I love. It is because I love running fast and having a set goal to get the ball carrier or the quarterback.”
“In addition, I had the chance to play on the offence as one of the running backs for the Vipers. The rush felt after making an important and explosive tackle is huge, but words cannot describe the feeling associated with scoring a touchdown! As those were both new positions for me, I was not expecting to be named to the MWFL All-Star team.”
Playing with Team Atlantic at the 2012 National Challenge Cup, Beaulieu learned to play a different position. She was converted from linebacker to strong safety. Although the position took adjustment, Beaulieu excelled, and the result was a nod on Canada’s national team.
“During the 2012 season, I was selected on Team Atlantic as a strong safety, which was a position that, even if it is similar to linebacker, was new to me. As I wanted to learn as much as possible for this new position, I started playing it with the Vipers.
As most of the players on Team Atlantic were from the MWFL, it was a unique experience for Beaulieu. Knowing that league rivals were suddenly teammates presented a new dynamic. Ever the team player, Beaulieu relished the opportunity to play with her peers while possibly improving her game.
“The experience was incredible and we grew closer as a group of players within the Maritimes. For example, during one of our regular season game, I injured my wrist and sat out the end of the game.
"Afterwards, the coach from the opposing team, who was also a coach for Team Atlantic, came over to make sure I was all right. The coach also provided encouragements and suggestions as to how to optimize the healing process. Furthermore, the respect amongst women around the league grew tremendously. It was very nice to see gestures such as, after a tackle, players from opposing teams help each other up.”
In addition to football, Beaulieu is expanding her athletic scope by competing in CrossFit. With CrossFit being employed by sporting figures such as Christmas Abbott and Emmanuelle Blais, the trend is quickly expanding. In discussing if CrossFit has improved her abilities on the football field, Beaulieu replied,
“Yes, it has. CrossFit is one of the main contributors to my success thus far. I must add to the mix other individuals. My food plans prepared by Registered Sports Dietitian Natasha McLaughlin-Chaison. Sprint and strength training programs by Mitch Caissy. The programming prepared by Kevin Wood of CrossFit Moncton, as they deserve some of the credit, too.”
The motivation for CrossFit came when Beaulieu became aware that try-outs would be held for Team Atlantic. Despite being active, Beaulieu did not see significant results. She was running five to ten kilometers and participating in generic weightlifting programs on a daily basis. CrossFit forces Beaulieu to go the extra mile to ensure that she is peak physical condition.
“I thought to myself ’I needed to amp up my training’. In January 2012, I started training at CrossFit Moncton. I began seeing immediate improvements in my strength and power outputs, as functional movements and Olympic lifts are the fundamentals of CrossFit.
"Being of a small stature and having to tackle people much bigger than I am, I've had to develop lots of power from my legs in order to complete my tackles. Lifts like the Cleans, the Snatches and the Kettle Bell Swings promote that explosive power from the hips.
"Practicing a variety of squats like the front squat, back squat and overhead squat promote strength and power in the large leg muscles, which permit me to continuously drive. There was also the practicing gymnastic-type movements that increases core strength as well as balance. You have to be focused and accurate.”
Beaulieu also participated in a CrossFit competition. These types of competitions challenge the mental toughness of competitors as the types of events are not revealed until the beginning. Under such strenuous circumstances, it makes it difficult to prepare for a particular event when one does not know what to expect. For Beaulieu, the competition was a great personal challenge.
“I participated in the CrossFit Open this year for the first time. I wanted to see how prepared I was when it came to dealing with stress and focus when in the midst of the competition. This was a great test and key component to my training, for this journey to Team Canada.
"Like football, CrossFit is as much an individual sport as a team sport. Both aspects are interlinked. You, the athlete are the only one performing the workout, but you are fueled by the other people training or encouraging at the same time. CrossFit athletes all around the world are a big family, supporting each other, very much like a football team.”
Her hard work has paid remarkable dividends as she earned a nod to the Canadian National Team. Although she has not yet absorbed it, being named is a milestone in her budding career. Ironically, when the phone call was made announcing that she had made the team, it was as unexpected as it was welcomed.
“To be honest, I am not certain that it has actually sunk in yet, as nothing has changed in my day-to-day routine. I recall when I received the call from the head coach, my first thought was "who would be calling me… from a 514 area code.
"Being from the Montreal area, my first thought was that it was a call from family or friend. It was late in the evening so I picked up, thinking it could be an emergency. Once I answered, it took a while to realize who was actually on the phone. To this date, I cannot tell you all the details of the conversation. I was sort of in shock to get the call.”
With the Women’s Worlds approaching quickly, the level of excitement is rising rapidly. Beaulieu is grateful for the confidence that was placed in her, and she is determined to have it yield remarkable results.
“As we are approaching the departure date, it is becoming more exciting. It is tangible now. All the hard work definitely paid off, but I tell myself that I have to keep progressing forward as I was picked out of the best in Canada. There has been an overwhelming amount of support. Many people have put their faith in me. I do not want to disappoint them and I want to finish this journey that I started on a good note.”
At the inaugural Women’s World Championships in 2010, Canada had to settle for a silver medal. With the specter of that experience lingering, Beaulieu is looking to write a new chapter for Canadian women’s football. When asked what it will take to win the gold medal, she responded,
“I think it will take great teamwork, focus and determination, which are all characteristics held by the athletes on this team. Many of us have never played together; therefore, it will be important to bring all of our individual talents together and play as one team. We will need to go hard every down and make every play count as if it was our last one.
"From what I have seen in attending various try-outs within the provincial and national levels, the Canadian athletes who play tackle football have a lot of heart and determination. This should take us far into the tournament.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”