The game of football, over the recent years has seen a large growth in the city of Ottawa. Talent is at an all-time high and only continues to reach new levels. We now can turn on the television and watch football at any level, the NFL, CFL, NCAA and Sports and identify at least one athlete from each stage of football that is from the capital of Canada. Players like Neville Gallimore, Jesse Luketa, Katley Joseph, D.K Bonhomme, Kurleigh Gittens, Jackson Bennett, J.P Cimankinda and TK Victome are all 613 products putting their city on the map with the work they put in on the football field and wouldn’t be able to do so without the football upbringing they had in Ottawa and the coaching they were given early in their football careers.
A coach in Ottawa that is known for his work on and off of the football field, impacted the lives and careers of many young football players like a few mentioned previously is Jean Sorphia-Guillaume. Guillaume, Haitian-born, and Montreal, Quebec raised played football growing up with the Sun Youth Hornets, where he was coached by a great coach himself in Earl De-La-Perralle. De-La-Perralle coached a number of players that went on to play at the next level, including many NFL and CFL stars, but also knew what was most important in the game of football, the life lessons learnt through the sport. For Guillaume, the time spent with Sun Youth was life changing and after coming into the program as a player, he left as a coach. Coach Earl transformed Jean Guillaume into a coach at 18 years old and although he played some football with the University of Montreal Carabins and has had some years away from coaching he remains on the sidelines, looking to change lives on and off of the field.
His coaching career, despite it starting in Montreal with Sun Youth has taken him to the capital of Canada where he has made a name for himself, most recently winning the 2020 Brian Kilrea coach of the year in the city of Ottawa, awarded by Mayor Jim Watson. The award recognizes the job he has done as a high school football coach with the St. Matthew Catholic High School Tigers in Orleans, winning a number of big games, and bringing the team to OFSAA, being the first black coach to do so, sending players to the next level in the NCAA, CEGEP and USports level but also being that much needed mentor off of the football field for many players and even students at the school during his time there. When asked about his role as a football coach Guillaume told JZ Media’s Jordan Zlomislic, “As a football coach you are in charge of more than just football. You are in charge of making a change in the kids lives. To leave a positive impact on them, teach them about life through the game and have them leave the season a better person and ready for what is next in their lives.” Guillaume also expressed, “I put the kids first as a coach. I like the development process part of coaching. You get to see the kids grow as athletes but most importantly people.”
After coaching with the St Matthews Tigers and turning around the entire football culture at the school, Jean Guillaume moved on to teach at Immaculata High School in downtown Ottawa while he coaches at the University of Ottawa, helping on the defensive side of the ball and recruiting field. When he began teaching at Immaculata though, the staff wanted him to coach the Saints’ football team. Knowing what he’s accomplished as a coach and what he’s done for his previous players, it was something that the school wanted in their culture and will soon receive. Accepting the opportunity to coach a new group of players, Guillaume makes his debut as the head coach of the Immaculata High School Saints on Wednesday at Millennium Park in Orleans against Franco Cite. He says, “Having the opportunity in front of me, it was hard to say no. The kids wanted it, and thats who you do it for. I love the game, and I want what is best for the kids for this season and moving forward.”