Written by: Matt Johnson for SaskSport
Garrett Peters can’t help but be excited about the opportunity in front of him.
Named the interim head coach of the McMaster Marauders women’s soccer team in August, the Regina product has quickly taken the reigns of a program looking to punch the programs first ticket to the U SPORTS National Championship since 2018.
Flashback ten years ago and Peters was in a similar spot — just as a player with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. He helped the Huskies advance to the program’s first-ever National Championship in 2013. The very next season, he helped the Huskies capture the program’s first Canada West Championship with a 4-2 defeat of the Alberta Golden Bears.
“The athletes are probably sick of me talking about it,” joked Peters. “I think it’s been helpful to have a reference. The first thing that we’re taking away from that is just that sense of belief that we are a very, very good team and that we can beat anybody on any given day.”
“The second part of that is just enjoying the run — those are some of the best days we ever had as a group. Each game, we had a great time, we celebrated as a group and we hung out as friends. I think that really resembles some of the culture they’ve built here at McMaster.”
Raised in Regina, Peters initially starred for the Trinity Western Spartans before electing to transfer home to Saskatchewan. He joined the Huskies and embarked on a decorated three-year career in the green-and-white, in which he was named the captain of the team in his final season in 2015 after representing Canada at the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gqanju, South Korea.
Peters got into coaching in Saskatoon soon after his playing career wrapped up and recognizes he wouldn’t be where he was today without grassroots soccer in the province providing him with the opportunity to get his start.
He credits the likes of former Saskatchewan Soccer Association director of performance Yiannis Tsalatsidis and Huskies men’s soccer head coach Bryce Chapman for their roles in preparing him for a coaching career.
Tsalatsidis, who took on a role with FC London in 2021, helped sway Peters to make the move from Saskatoon and go all in on a potential coaching career when he moved to London. He took on the role of head coach of FC London’s Women’s Team, who compete in League 1 — a semi-professional Ontario-based league comprised of 19 teams across the province, possessing rosters with NCAA and U SPORTS standouts alike — a position he still holds and balances with his job at McMaster.
Yet it was a career path that was never truly on the radar of Peters, who viewed what he was doing while with the Saskatchewan Regional Excel Program (REX) and the ASTRA Soccer Academy as something he enjoyed doing.
“It’s been amazing. I don’t think many people do what they love for work. I’ve been pretty lucky. I always tell people that my job isn’t really a real job. It’s been great,” said Peters.
Ever since that early August phone call letting Peters know he would receive the position, it has been a whirlwind.
“I was brought on two weeks before preseason after interviewing like three weeks before — it was crazy,” admitted Peters. “I went into a situation literally not knowing the players. I don’t know the names of anybody. I haven’t recruited anybody — and they all know what’s going on. That part of it was very difficult.”
His experience taking over at FC London on short notice helped him in the pitch to McMaster administration interview that he could be the one to take over on short notice and bring immediate success to a program that has been mired in the midst of the conference’s pack for much of the last decade.
He did exactly that. A 3-2 victory over the Waterloo Warriors on Sept. 1 helped the Marauders win their opening match of the season. The victory set up the program for an 8-2-2 regular-season record, which stands as McMaster’s best campaign in more than 11 years. It also led to Peters being named the OUA West Coach of the Year
“The team deserves all of the credit for the year,” said Peters. “As a student-athlete back in the day I felt that us as players had a big impact on how far we went and it’s no different now. In terms of my role as a coach, I’m just lucky to be here along for the ride.”
On Nov. 4, the Marauders will look to extend that ride even longer as they meet the Western Mustangs in London for the OUA bronze-medal game, after losing to the Ottawa Gee-Gees 2-1 in Wednesday’s semifinal. Winning the bronze medal will mean advancing to the U SPORTS National Championship, while a loss means an end to the season.
“My belief is you want to play for as long as possible each year,” said Peters. “It would mean a lot to the program. We have quite a few seniors and now, it’s just how they can extend their season as long as possible, enjoy the moment, and make as many memories as possible.
“If it ends up ending this weekend, we can look back and say, ‘Hey, we did everything we could and enjoyed every moment. If it ends up ending three weeks from now, an OUA medal or a successful run at Nationals would just be a cherry on top.”