Sacrifice, Strategy and Second Chances

Mike LaChance Shares His Experiences 
As Coach of the St. Clair Fratmen

Story by Cameron Chappus
Photography by William Smith

2021 saw the return of many sporting events across the world, but locally, Windsorites were able to see the St. Clair College’s Fratmen football team return to the field. “I thought we had a fantastic regular season,” says Mike LaChance, coach of the Fratmen, “we led wire to wire, we didn’t trail in a game and we had all kinds of fun along the way.” 

LaChance, a long-standing figure in the provincial football scene, reflects on his experiences through the 2021 season. 

2021 OFC Coach of the Year Mike LaChance.

The St. Clair Fratmen recently saw one of the most competitive seasons in their history, having a strong series of wins right up until the upset against the London Beefeaters in the Ontario championship game. 

“When we open camp, the one thing that we talk about more than anything is every step along the way, every practice, every play in a game, every victory that we get, is all part of the puzzle.” The seasoned coach spoke at length about what his team accomplished over the last half-year, including several key victories leading to what seemed like an inevitable success. “That first game against London at St. Clair College, the crowd, the energy, the support we got from the school… We were loud and it was fun. It was a really great atmosphere.” LaChance continues, “I think it defined what we’re going to do moving forward with St. Clair College.” The season didn’t turn in the Fratmen’s favour, but the team and its coach have walked away with a renewed sense of purpose. 

Despite their successes, the Fratmen were faced with several challenges along their journey. LaChance notes that the team suffered an unusually high number of injuries during this season. “We had four players break legs this year.” Says LaChance. “In my 18 years in this, I’ve only ever seen one in any given season, maybe two or three overall.” He continues to note that several soft tissue and ligament injuries were sustained amongst the team, which he attributes to the year of inactivity during the ongoing COVID pandemic. “In a contact sport like football, it’s important you stay in shape. But playing shape and gym shape are two totally different things.” 

Coach LaChance made sure his team maintained a constant level of competitiveness to keep their momentum going, often encouraging his players to be competitive with each other. “It really instills in them to want to win every day. I think we’re at the highest level of the OFC, so when we do practices like O versus D (offensive versus defensive), it really pushes players to their limit.” 

Having coached the Fratmen for almost two decades, LaChance has seen the game, and his team, change drastically over the years. “I’ve been the coach for 18 years and 17 seasons, and seven years before that as assistant coach, so it’s changed a lot. All of it has been positive in different ways. Even the bad times all lead to good things. It’s always been a positive experience.” LaChance goes on, “No matter what changes around me as a coach, the constant thread remains that the goal of the program is not only to win games, but to help develop young athletes. I think the connections you’re able to have as a coach over that time period is unbelievable.” 

Running back Jacob Savoni (middle) celebrates one of his two touchdowns in the game with OFC All-Star receiver Jared Hayes-Williams (left) and CJFL All- Canadian lineman Kyle Jennings (right).

For the Fratmen, LaChance has certainly been a transformative part of their development into the fiery team they are today. “I think that’s the goal of every coach, to make an impact and make a change in people’s lives, for the better.” 

Being one of Windsor’s signature sports teams, the St. Clair Fratmen hold a strong sense of pride in their local sports scene. “We’ve gotten a lot of support; the city was awesome this year,” Coach LaChance notes on his experience over the last year. “That first game against London, with how special it was, was the first major sporting event of note in Windsor since the start of the pandemic. We took to the field before the Spitfires started, before anything else was going on. We had that first home game.”  

For Windsor, the return of local sporting events is nothing short of impactful. As a team, the Fratmen feel a great sense of gratitude for the season they were able to play locally and as coach, Mike LaChance feels especially proud of his team. “It’s hard to just put one name out there for the team because we had such a good team effort.” 

Looking back at the season as a whole, LaChance notes that many Windsorites felt that it signaled a return to form for local sports events. “It certainly felt like the most normal thing that we’ve had. I think it was a good getaway for a lot of people. And the challenge we faced along the way; it was sort of a microcosm of what we’re going through right now.” 

Looking into the future, coach LaChance spared no time setting his sights on victory in 2022. “We’re going to win the national championship for St. Clair College,” he says, without a moment of hesitation. “We had a good opportunity to do it this year, it was an easy road. But we’re going to win it next year.” 

CJFL All-Canadian receiver Cody Holmes runs away from a GTA Grizzlies tackler.

In 2022, the Fratmen face a greater challenge, as they will have to travel out west for the championship game. Still, LaChance’s sights are firmly set on a 2022 win. “It doesn’t change the goal at hand. This year our focus got a bit skewed because to win the national championship you have to win the Ontario championship first. But I know the college wants more, I as head coach want more, the staff expect more and our players want more. So, our main focus is that first goal, to secure the national championship and bring that back to Windsor.” 

The highs and lows that the Fratmen faced this season were some of the most intense in their memory, but there’s no doubt that this local team is back with more determination than ever. 

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