Pitt women’s lacrosse coach Emily Boissonneault unafraid of start-up programs
Emily Boissonneault hasn’t even set up an office at Petersen Events Center. Right now, all she has are some lacrosse sticks, balls, helmets and a dream.
But the 28-year-old Canadian, introduced Tuesday as Pitt’s first women’s lacrosse coach, already is talking about creating a legacy for her successors.
“So, in the future, when more coaches come in, I want them to be excited to be here,” she said.
She quickly caught herself, aware she was talking about the end of her head coaching career before it started.
“When I retire,” she said, laughing.
Introducing your first Pitt Lacrosse Head Coach, Emily Boissonneault!
— Pitt Athletics (@Pitt_ATHLETICS) June 28, 2019
Before then, Boissonneault has plenty of work to do, building a program — the 19th Pitt sport — from the ground floor. Pitt’s first women’s lacrosse game will be played in the spring of 2022.
Heather Lyke, who has hired nine coaches since she was named Pitt’s athletic director 27 months ago, used an intriguing word when she talked Tuesday about the characteristics she demands of Boissonneault and all her coaches.
“She’s passionate, she’s genuine and she absolutely has the courage and confidence to build a lacrosse program here at Pitt,” Lyke said.
The word is courage, with Boissonneault embarking on the challenge of becoming the ninth women’s lacrosse program in the ACC, the strongest conference in the nation.
In the final Inside Lacrosse poll this year, six ACC teams were among the top 15. North Carolina, Boston College and Syracuse were 2-3-4, with Virginia sixth, Notre Dame eighth and Duke 15th. Virginia Tech was unranked but received votes.
“I think it’s going to take courage just to be in this conference and start from scratch,” Boissonneault said.
Lyke’s search for a courageous coach goes beyond the challenge of the ACC.
When Boissonneault gets heavily involved in recruiting her 32-women squad — a process that already has begun with calls to several high school coaches before she can contact athletes Sept. 1 — she’s looking for a certain type of woman.
“I want them to be strong, independent women in our community,” she said, “and it takes courage to lead a group of women like that. It’s going to take a special kind of athlete, but that’s what we want. We want special athletes who are willing to put in the work and willing to fight.
“It’s going to take courage to fight through the ups and down, and there will be ups and down. I think it’s being ready to attack those situations.”
Lyke believes Boissonneault has been uniquely prepared for the job. She has been the associate head coach at James Madison the past four years, helping lead the team to a national championship in 2018 and a No. 9 ranking — among all those ACC teams — this year. In fact, Boissonneault helped James Madison defeat all six of the ACC teams it has played.
She has been a part of start-up programs as a player at Donald A. Wilson High School in Whitby, Ontario, where she was recruited from the basketball team, and Detroit Mercy, her college alma mater. She also joined the coaching staff at Winthrop in the program’s second season, and she is an assistant on the Canadian National U19 team.
She credits her quick rise in the coaching profession to the work ethic taught her by her father Marc, who started a business fresh out of high school, and mother, Corinne.
“They showed me what a good person in the community looks like and how to take care of each other and how to take care of staff,” she said. “How he respected them. That’s a big part of who I am as a coach.”
But there’s another side to Boissonneault.
“I like to have a good time. I goof off quite a bit,” she said, smiling. “That’s a big part of being able to be vulnerable with your team and to show them that they can have fun, too. Because, ultimately, they’re only going to play their best if they’re enjoying it.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .