October 10, 2022 Pascal Ratthe/alouettes de montreal
For Allyson Sobol (right in picture above), there is the feeling that now that she’s gotten through the pro football management door, the possibilities are endless.
“I feel like the sky’s the limit,” said the 26-year-old Montreal native, a lifelong Alouettes fan who is now employed as the team’s football operations manager/coordinator.
Promoted to her current job in January, after spending a little over a year as an administrative assistant for Alouettes’ president Mario Cecchini, Sobol finds herself near the centre of Alouettes’ management, taking on the finer detail duties that any team needs to ensure the business of football is being carried out smoothly.
Currently, she is the right hand of Montreal’s senior director of football operations, Éric Deslauriers, assisting in ensuring that training camp — fast approaching — is ready to roll and then to be run smoothly.
“Primarily, anything player related,” said Sobol of her football ops duties, giving an example of the detailed work she needs to do when it comes to American players who’ll come north.
“Getting them into Canada with their work permits and their social insurance numbers, bank accounts,” she said. “All that so that they can be in Canada, legally, and get paid.”
Sobol’s love for the Alouettes and for football in general came first from her father, Steve, when she was a child. “I was always watching the CFL, the Alouettes,” Sobol said. “My dad is a big football fan.”
But it was in playing the game where Sobol really got the bug. In the eighth grade, a teacher encouraged her to try flag football and Sobol did, starting out on defence, playing safety. Quickly, though, she flipped to the offensive side of the ball where she became a quarterback. She’s been a quarterback ever since, continuing to play on Sundays in Quebec’s FlagPlus Football League. “That’s really where my love for football started,” said Sobol of her initial experiences with flag.
Sobol was an intern for the Ottawa Blackjacks of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) as she wrapped up her Master’s degree in sport management at the University of Ottawa. Wanting to return to her hometown, Sobol approached Annie Larouche, the vice-president of operations for another CEBL team, the Montreal Alliance, about employment there, but there wasn’t a fit.
Larouche, though, had just taken the reins of the Alliance after a 25-year career with the Alouettes, in such capacities as director of the Alouettes Foundation and director of the team’s alumni association. Through that connection, Sobol became aware of an opening with the Als, landing an interview with Cecchini. “Everything went super well and that’s where it all started,” said Sobol.
Now, after a little over a year, during which she started to take on community outreach duties in addition to her admin duties, Sobol has been elevated into her current role.
“The people here, they understand that I’m not here because I’m a woman,” said Sobol of the Alouettes organization. “I’m here because I know the sport of football and I do my job very well. And I think that the culture here is changing. The culture in the CFL is changing, where women are included in the conversation and are at the head of the table in some positions.”
“I think the more the sport is developing and the more that women are being empowered to go into these positions of power — where they might be the only woman in the room and be comfortable in that — I think is huge.
“I think,” added Sobol, “sometimes it is intimidating but you get past that.”
You can count Alouettes’ general manager Danny Maciocia among those who have been impressed by Sobol in the year-and-a-half she has been with the Alouettes.
“Allyson has shown a lot of professionalism since joining the Alouettes in 2021, being able to pair multiple issues at once,” said Maciocia.
“The more I conversed with her, the more I realized she had a great football mind. She asks good questions and often makes us see things from a different point of view. She has a very bright future ahead of her.”
“I really appreciate the way Danny and Mario have kind of taken me under their wing and allowed me to develop not only on the administrative side of football, but also into scouting and stuff like that,” said Sobol, open to any number of paths that might be available to her in the future. “I’m really getting a look at everything.”
Whichever way she goes over the next few years, though, Sobol has her eye on one day taking a seat behind the desk in a team’s general manager’s office. “That’s the big dream,” she said. “That’s the goal for me.”
Sobol will be in the interview room for the Alouettes at the CFL Combine, March 22-26 in Edmonton, and then shortly after that comes draft day. Before you know it, the opening of training camp arrives. She might well be doing more than just observing and taking notes at camp, based on previous experience.
“Last year, I was involved in practice a little bit,” she said. “Because I can throw, some of the coaches were getting me in on drills, which was super fun. So I can only hope for that again this year.”
Maybe she’ll be firing passes while standing near Alouettes’ offensive coordinator Anthony Calvillo, who might well be throwing too. “That would be pretty cool,” said Sobol. An idol of hers when she was a child
— though she admits that receiver S.J. Green was her favourite player — Sobol remembers first meeting the hall of fame quarterback soon after joining the Als back in 2021.
“There was a little big of a star struck moment,” she said. “I was like ‘Oh my God.’ I’m a quarterback, so naturally I always kind of looked up to him.”
Even if you push the fun possibilities of slinging passes next to the Kid from La Puente aside, Sobol is feeding her heart’s desire in the Montreal front office. Arranging for player SIN numbers, bank accounts, work visas or arranging travel details and managing expense reports, it all puts her at the epicentre of the sport she first knew she loved, back there in grade eight. “I love football,” she said. “And I love being a part of it.”
“I only see myself growing from here,” added the QB with the Master’s degree.
“I think with the tools that I’m being given, I feel like there’s no ceiling for me.”