Even before his interim tag was removed in November 2019, Daylon Courchene had begun transforming the Carleton Ravens baseball program into OUA contenders. In two seasons at the helm, the Ravens' head coach has now guided the team to an OUA silver medal and an OUA Championship tournament appearance.
A player-coach with the team since 2017, Courchene had already been coaching baseball in the Ottawa area for four years when he took over the Ravens. In his time with the Ravens, Daylon has also played an instrumental role in growing the Junior Ravens Baseball program.
“Growing up I always had leadership roles on teams on played in and would end up helping at youth camps and that just transitioned to coaching,” explained Courchene. “I realized I wanted to teach either the next generation or university student-athletes baseball.”
After two seasons as the bench boss for the Ravens, Courchene has seen his team flourish, going from 5-10 to OUA silver medalists. “It’s been awesome,” he would explain. “I give a lot of credit to the players and my coaching staff.” Reflecting on his early success with the program, Courchene credits the core that carried over from his days as a player coach.
“Daylon came through the program as a player and has huge aspirations for Ravens baseball,” explained Manager and Faculty Advisor George Rigakos. “He has already introduced expanded training, new technologies, and a real commitment to helping players develop.”
With a new approach, the Ravens quickly found success. While others quickly credit the change to Courchene's approach, he’s quick to credit the core that was already established.
“In 2019, the team that we had was super talented and we just got hot at the right moment and proved to everybody that we weren’t a 5-10 team.” After a full year off, Courchene’s team still carried that momentum into the COVID shortened 2021 season. Falling just two games short of an OUA Championship in 2021, Courchene and the team are committed to overcoming the hump and bringing home an OUA Banner.
While his early success has helped Courchene build for the future, he recognizes the young team still has work to do if they’re to become a perennial favourite. Reflecting on his 2021 recruiting class, Courchene felt it was the team's quick success in their first year in the OUA that helped market the program. “That 2019 run did a lot to show that we’re a program that has potential.”
Now, coming back from another successful campaign, the Ravens are confident they're building in the right direction. “We are on the verge,” adds Rigakos. “It's a very young team and Daylon has managed to cultivate a very positive, very supportive culture.”
The resurgence of Ravens baseball is no doubt thanks to Courchene’s approach. For Rigakos, it’s Courchene’s team-first nature that has allowed him to build such a successful program. “Not only is he able to get the most out of his roster but I have also seen a rejuvenation in alumni support. He gives others room to contribute.”
While Daylon has found success at Carleton, his impact extends far beyond Carleton Athletics. A member of the Moose Cree First Nation, Daylon managed Ontario’s Indigenous baseball team to a silver medal at the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto.
After talking about his competitive success Daylon’s tone becomes a bit lighter and more hopeful when asked about his other coaching duties. Daylon actively stays connected to his First Nation. Last summer he helped to bring a summer baseball camp to the island community.
Courchene’s drive is to provide children with more opportunities through sport, expanding on the limited offerings that are sometimes available. “In Moose Factory, there is a strong emphasis on hockey, and I wanted to give the opportunity for advancing another sport.” Bringing such an easy outlet to Moose Cree, Courchene hopes that baseball can create an opportunity for more children and youth in the community to stay active year-round.
Courchene hopes to bring more members of the Ottawa and Carleton baseball communities with him to run the camp this summer. “It can be life-changing for the guys who get to go up there and see a different perspective.”
As baseball continues to grow in Canada alongside the popularity of the Blue Jays, Courchene believes that with access to coaching and resources the game will also grow in Indigenous communities. “It’s about communities having access to coaching,” he explains. “Not a lot of communities have people who were baseball players, or who played baseball down South, here in Ontario, so it’s about finding coaches and programs to give them that opportunity to fall in love with it.”
As he does his part to help grow the game, Courchene also hopes to set an example by showing the next generation of First Nations kids that they can play sports and get an education at the same time if they stay committed. “We’re trying to put an importance on finishing high school and looking at post-secondary options,” explains Courchene.
“There are many sports other than hockey and baseball that they can pursue, just other opportunities – there are options for kids in sports.”