Dominique Rossignol and Andre Rossignol have never been far removed from the northern Maine sports scene.
As youngsters they followed their dad’s coaching career — usually riding the team bus or in a prime seat near the bench — as former University of Maine basketball star Matt Rossignol has taught, coached and officiated in Aroostook County for the last three decades.
Matt Rossignol recently left the coaching ranks to become athletic administrator at his alma mater, Van Buren High School.
Daughter Parise is an assistant coach with the UMaine women’s basketball team, and now Dominique and Andre are first-year boys varsity soccer head coaches. Dominique is at Wisdom High School in Saint Agatha and Andre is at Caribou High School.
“I probably spent more time on a bus than I did at home during the winters from the age of 10 on. It’s all we ever knew,” Dominique Rossignol said.
The 31-year-old has officiated soccer since graduating from high school 13 years ago and has helped his father coach Parise’s Van Buren basketball teams along with sub-varsity and middle school hoop posts in Fort Fairfield, Presque Isle, Madawaska and Fort Kent.
“I’ve always kind of felt the itch to be more than an arbiter of the rules,” he said of his soccer experiences. “Sometimes I’ve had to stop myself from giving instruction to kids I was reffing, so I thought I might be suited to coaching as well.”
Andre Rossignol recently accepted his first varsity coaching post in Caribou at age 21 — while still a senior majoring in exercise science at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
“I got a taste for coaching with JV basketball at Caribou last year, and I got to sit on the bench for the varsity team that ended up winning the state championship,” said Andre, a 2017 Caribou graduate. “That ignited my passion for coaching and when I saw the soccer job open up I thought that would be a good opportunity.”
Andre, who played soccer the last two years at UMPI, inherits players from a Caribou team that captured the 2019 Class B North championship. Former coach Scott Hunter retired from the head coaching post after the season.
“A lot of them were ball boys back when I was playing,” Andre said of the returning cast.
Dominique, who teaches in the alternative education program at St. John Valley Technical Center in Frenchville, learned of his first varsity coaching post in mid-July while setting up the reception for his wedding.
He faces a different immediate challenge than his younger brother.
“I look at my roster and I don’t have a single senior and I have eighth-graders that play up,” Dominique said. We’re really, really young, This is really more a two- or three-year project we’re working on rather than what this season is like at its end.”
Both coaches have the additional responsibility of leading teams in the coronavirus age. That reality left the notion of even having a soccer season uncertain until last week and has necessitated a reduced regional schedule this fall with no formal postseason play.
“This crop of Caribou athletes is extremely competitive no matter what it is,” Andre said, “so the opportunity just to compete against each other in practice, or whoever we play in our all-County schedule, I think they welcome any competition.”
The new season comes with new rules to address the COVID-19 pandemic, some involving the use of face coverings and physical distancing. Others are specific to soccer such as restrictions on slide tackling and limiting the number of players allowed in the penalty area on corner kicks and throw-ins.
“The precautions you have to take in practices and games and the slight differences as far as in-game rules that are actually going to affect play, they’re just going to take little reminders because these kids have been playing a certain way for so long,” Dominique said.
Both Rossignols guided their teams through Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned summer conditioning programs established after the spring sports season was canceled due to the coronavirus.
While the schedules are still being formalized, the Rossignol brothers and their teams at this point see the opportunity to safely compete in their chosen sport as more important than specific opponents.
“Now it’s telling them to wear their masks when they’re not in the game and to try not to get too close to each other,” Andre said. “Those are things coaches don’t usually have to worry about but that’s the situation we’re in. I’m just happy we’re able to play soccer so I’m definitely willing to put up with it.”