The Guelph Gryphons feel that they and the other OUA football programs have an obligation to help improve the quality of football in Ontario.
In doing so, it should help grow their own programs as well as the quality of football in the OUA league.
In that regard, the Gryphons host a few clinics every year, one of them being their annual coaches clinic.
“The coaching clinic is important for the team from all aspects,” said Gryphon special forces coordinator Bill Brown. “One, recruiting – bringing other coaches in that are the voices in their schools and their communities and, two, for us just making those connections. I think it’s important our coaches stand in front of other people and spread their knowledge and that makes football in Ontario better.”
Special forces is Gryphon speak for special teams.
This year’s clinic attracted many high school coaches from southern Ontario as they came in to soak up whatever information they could to take back to their own teams.
“I think it’s really good to see what they’re doing at the USports level and I know I want to try to prepare my players as best as possible for the USports level if they have an opportunity to play, which a few of our players have,” said Rob Hamilton, head coach of Guelph’s Bishop Macdonell Celtics. “It’s good for me to try to bridge that gap and maybe aid the learning for our kids so that they’re better prepared going into (university training) camp and then maybe they can get on the field sooner and make more of an impact at the university level a little bit quicker and ease that learning transition.”
This year the clinic was held at the Gryphons’ Pavilion, the first time they had the opportunity to host it there. The facility turned out to be ideal for it as the Gryphons drew up a schedule that usually had three seminars running at the same time and the clinic participants could choose which seminar to attend.
“It’s perfect,” Brown said of the facility. “The field is right there, the classrooms, the breakout sessions – we can have hospitality and if the weather is great we can go upstairs on the balcony and overlook things. It’s great and showcasing that facility for it is great, too.”
All of the Gryphon coaches gave seminars in their own area of expertise with Brown talking about special teams and their importance.
“With special teams everyone says it’s one-third of the football program, but the reality is that programs sometimes don’t put a lot of attention into their specials,” he said. “When I took on the job as special teams coordinator, it was very important to me that if they’re going to promise that it’s one-third, then give me one-third of the time, give me one-third of the resources and prove that it is that important. To do that, you have to sell it to these players. They come from programs where they did maybe five minutes of specials every practice and that doesn’t mean that it’s important. I have to sell it to them and that’s what my presentation was about – selling it to the athlete and the rest of the coaches.”
“The special forces production here was very good,” Hamilton said. “There are a lot of things that I’m going to get out of that that I’m going to bring back to my coaches because we don’t stress special teams enough.”
“The feedback I got from a lot of the coaches that were there was that sometimes they don’t do a good job at selling it,” Brown said. “They don’t know how. With us with special forces and the military references and all those rewards systems that we have implemented, it helps. They just need to know that there’s a connect there and they can get creative within their own programs. Hopefully I showed them the way to do that.”
When they return to their own teams, the clinic participants will have to adapt whatever they learned to their own programs. None have the coaching staff as large as a university team’s staff and at best football is a four-month proposition at high school while it’s a year-long endeavour at university.
“I can’t do what they do here. I know that so I do the best with what I’ve got,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got six coaches and we all wear different hats and we divide our jobs as best we can, like film review. We’re not a pro film review type of team, but we do it once a week and we do have a team meeting that we can do that type of stuff in. That’s one example of what we have in common with those program, but the way that we do it is a lot less detailed.
“At the end of the day, half of our film review is ‘well, this kid was in the wrong place entirely.’ These are issues that wouldn’t happen at this level so it’s a little bit different in that regard, but the basic core is the same.”
And like customers at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the clinic participants grabbed as much information at the clinic as they could.
“There was a lot of good stuff today, for sure,” Hamilton said.