Starting university is a challenging time of transition for all first-year students, both academically and socially. For student athletes, this period is particularly difficult, as they are presented with the additional challenges of meeting teammates, coaches, and staff that will become critical figures in their daily lives.
Mara Bouchard, U1 Arts, is a first-year student on the McGill Martlets soccer team who previously played for Vanier College in Montreal. Despite the barriers that many first-year student athletes face, the midfielder from Granby, Quebec found the adjustment to university life to be smooth and straightforward.
“As a rookie and first year on the team, I was very much included by the rest of the players and veterans,” Bouchard said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I think being from Quebec made it easier to bond with the team, as there are a lot of other members of the squad from this province.”
Bouchard performed well in her rookie season with the Martlets, helping McGill achieve the second best defensive record in the league. Bouchard cited her past experience at the National High Performance Center (CNHP) directed by Soccer Quebec in Montreal as a reason for her success.
“Soccer-wise, I thought it was a great season for me,” Bouchard said. “I was expecting to do well coming from a strong soccer background and playing at CNHP. Especially for my first year, I ended up in a place that I was happy with.”
The Martlets had an especially impressive showing this season given the larger share of newcomers to the team. The squad placed third in the RSEQ, finishing the year with a 7–4–3 record. Although the Martlets fell short in the playoff semi-final game against Université Laval, they ended the season on a hot streak, winning their final four of five regular season matches. In Bouchard’s eyes, this late-season push proved the team successfully achieved their goal for the season.
“The result of the semi-final against Laval was obviously not the one we had hoped for,” Bouchard said. “Our goal [for] the year was to become the most improved team. I think we accomplished and proved our goal to everyone, including ourselves.”
Heading into the Fall 2022 season, Bouchard is optimistic about the team’s future and is looking forward to building on this past year’s momentum.
“This year, finishing third was certainly a success for the program, particularly given the shortcomings of the recent past,” Bouchard said. “Our objective for next year is to continue to improve and earn a playoff spot once again. Our coaches have done an excellent job so far in my time here, and I know they are going to push us further to properly develop our individual and team play while we all progress toward the ultimate goal of a championship.”
Off the pitch, Bouchard is halfway through her first year as a psychology major. However, Bouchard’s top priority after university is to continue pursuing her love of and passion for the beautiful game.
“After McGill, I definitely want to keep playing soccer,” Bouchard said. “I am hoping I can find a pro contract in Europe somewhere and hopefully play professionally for a few years after I graduate. If this plan does not work, I will use my degree to pursue my goal of becoming a psychologist. I would love to be employed in this field in the future, and am enjoying studying the subject so far here at university.”
Next August, training camp will build upon the strong bonds forged between players and coaches throughout this season. Bouchard looks to lead the midfield next season amongst a dedicated squad that is poised to improve on this season’s success.