Gryphons in Florida: Through My Eyes
By: Taylor Floris
As a new addition to the large team of people who are involved with the Gryphon Football team, I have had the privilege to get to know and understand the ins and outs of this program better than the average eye.
Unlike most other teams on campus, or even in Ontario, the University of Guelph Gryphons Football team treats their work like a business. Every day the team of coaches and players work together to create the best possible outcome that they can. This is true in the classroom, on the football field, in life, and with the overall brand of Gryphon Football.
"Look where we are fellas. Look where we are."
I have been raised on the game of football. Ever since I was a little girl, my Saturdays and Sundays were spent watching football with my father. I’ve always been drawn to the intensity and athleticism of the game. Last week, I was given the opportunity to travel to Florida’s IMG Academy with the team to assist with the marketing aspects of the team’s training week. Somehow, after the week spent at IMG Academy, I have managed to grow a greater love for the sport and all that comes with striving for greatness. I was able to act as a fly-on-the-wall for various aspects of the week: the early mornings, the intense practices, the focused film sessions, the team bonding and the overall discipline of our players.
"It's more mental than it is physical"
For someone who was not around during last year’s pre-season training or season, it was eye-opening to see the level of intensity that goes into making Gryphon Football great. Throughout the past week, I was able to observe every practice, attend meetings and speaker sessions, as well as all of the other activities that took place during this trip.
Let me take you through how the typical day went. By around 6:15 a.m, every morning, I would meet the boys at the tram stop to make our way over to breakfast. IMG’s breakfast was cafeteria style and included multiple healthy options for the guys to fuel up for a long day of practice. Once breakfast was finished, the guys would make their way over to the locker room where they would do some therapy, get taped, and get themselves prepared for the day. Practice begun at 8:00 a.m. every morning and included a variety of drills such as walk-throughs, individual positional drills, pass-skelly and group sessions. Practice was typically four hours long, ending at noon. Once complete, the guys would aid their body through ice baths and therapy. After a quick lunch and a small break, the boys were back to work. From 3-5 p.m. everyday, they would have their team meetings, as well as positional meetings to watch film from the day, discuss what went well and what could be improved upon for the upcoming day.
When 5:00 rolled along, the guys would venture off to dinner. The team was also kept busy during the evenings. Throughout the week, we had a chapel event that was run by Zenon Andrusyshyn, and two speaker sessions from IMG representatives who spoke to our boys about mental conditioning and leadership. Zenon played for the UCLA Bruins and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys before continuing his career for the Toronto Argonauts. He played 16 years as a pro kicker/punter, made all-pro multiple times, and is the World Record Holder of the Longest Punt (108 yards).
After everything was concluded, the boys went off to their rooms to wind down for the night. This time was often spent catching up on some school work, watching Netflix, or above all, gathering around to play Fortnite.
As for myself, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet both with the Social Media Manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning, along with the Marketing Manager for IMG Academy. Coach Bill Brown joined me on both of these meetings to discuss some of the marketing strategies and tactics that make both establishments so successful. We asked lots of questions took even more notes and are looking forward to applying our learnings to the better the marketing of the Guelph Gryphon Football program.
If there is one thing that stood out to me about this trip, it was how, throughout the week, the team seemed to have strengthen their brotherhood. As an incomer, I was expecting the bus ride on our way to Florida to be loud and rowdy. It was quite quiet and time was passed through the continuous playing of movies. At the beginning of the week, you saw your usual groups of guys sitting with one another in the cafeteria. As the week progressed, I began to watch these groups of guys blend together a bit more. Practice seemed to get more energetic and supportive. Guys were chatting, laughing and coming out of their shell. Leaving IMG, I was expecting the bus ride home to be very quiet as the guys would be exhausted. I was wrong again. The guys created great conversations with one another, opening the floor to everyone’s honest opinions on a variety of topics, jokes and chirps were made left right and centre, music was playing and competitive card games were taking place. The conversation was so strong that there were actual requests to not put a movie on because that would mean having to simmer our conversations. It was great to see.
“The team has gotten so much closer this trip man. Guys who didn't speak before are now talking all the time, cracking jokes and everything. It’s great.”
The last day of training camp was spent with a scrimmage. During this scrimmage, I walked up and down the sidelines observing the game-like atmosphere. Players on the sidelines were conversing with one another, giving game-advice, and cracking some jokes. I couldn't help but overhear one conversation between a vet and a new player: “the team has gotten so much closer this trip man. Guys who didn’t speak before are now talking all the time, cracking jokes and everything. It’s great”. I found myself smiling when I heard this because it was everything that I observed, confirmed through a new player on the team who was beginning to feel integrated.
“I think the highlight of the trip for me was that I finally expressed my outgoing side to some of the teammates.”
Throughout the week at IMG, the team became better football players, but above from that, they became a better unit. That is exactly the kind of thing that you hope to gain from a trip such as this. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this amazing week and to witness IMG’s facilities, the dedication to the game displayed by our players, and the way in which the brotherhood amongst the guys grew. I am so excited to see how these improvements translate onto the field come August.