One thing that’s pretty noticeable about the Guelph Gryphons is the number of professional coaches who just seem to show up at training camp or at practice.
Last weekend former Toronto Argonauts head coach and general manager Jim Barker dropped by. A few days later it was Jeff Reinebold who stopped in.
“Originally, it was to see my friend (Gryphon linebackers coach) Joe Sardo,” Reinebold said. “Joe and I have known each other since he was a player at Hawaii in the ’80s and then he came and played in the CFL. We kind of reunited our friendship when I came to Hamilton five years ago and he was working in Hamilton. Joe’s a heck of a guy and a heck of a football coach so I told him I’d just show up at practice one day and that’s what I did.”
And Reinebold liked what he saw on the Alumni Stadium field.
“These kids are really getting coached,” he said. “This is an impressive program. When you watch a team practice you learn a lot about, not only the team and the players, but you learn a lot about the coaches. This is a really good coaching staff. They’re organized. All the kids are getting coached. There’s no wasted time on the field and they’re coaching fundamentals. I’ve been really impressed.”
The visit might also have been good for Reinebold who was recently relieved of the defensive coordinator duties with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“It reminds you of why you fell in love with coaching and it reminds you of why you fell in love with football because all of us were one of these kids once upon a time and most of us were one of these coaches once upon a time – maybe guys that aren’t full time on staff or do it like Joe, for example, who has a tremendous banking career, but does it because he loves football. When you get into professional sports, you recognize it’s a business. When you come out here, it’s refreshing because you see the love of the game. These kids aren’t playing for money. They’re not coaching for money. They’re here because they want to be here.”
While the Gryphons hope to gain some knowledge from the visiting coaches or just have the players see that professional coaches are interested in them, those visiting coaches can also learn from the Gryphons.
“When I came in and I saw that they’re using the Jumbotron to keep track of the practice time and what period you’re in, that’s great organizational football,” Reinebold said. “There’s always a drill, there’s always a fundamental, there’s always a coaching technique that if you’re open to it, you can pick up. I was just watching the linebacker drill and there was a couple of footwork drills that Joe was doing that I thought were really good. You make a mental note and say we’ll carry that forward.”
The coaches who drop in are more than happy to pass along their knowledge, too. Some feel it’s almost an obligation to do so.
“One of the things that I think is really important and sometimes coaches, especially when you get up into the professional ranks, you seem to lose track of the fact that you have a responsibility to give back and to give to the next generation of coaches,” Reinebold said, adding that coaches like Dick Vermeil, Buddy Ryan, Jerry Glanville, June Jones and Bob O’Billovich did that for him. “They passed that stuff to you because there’s no new original thoughts in this game, really. They pass that stuff to you so it’s now your responsibility to pass that on. A couple of the coaches here, we’ve had talks. ‘Hey, can you spend some time with me about this? What do you do about this?’ In Hawaii we have a word, kuleana, and kuleana means basically that’s what you were put on the earth to do. We just really believe that.”
Reinebold does plenty of travelling as he makes Hawaii his home, but doesn’t get there for any long stretches.
“I have a really interesting existence because I coached in the CFL. In November I go to London, England, and I do television for Sky Sports doing analyst work on the NFL games and after that I get to Hawaii as much as I can. I’ve got a little more time to get to Hawaii this year.
“Hawaii is such phenomenal place. I grew up all over the world because my dad (Jim Reinebold) was in professional baseball and I was a coach’s kid. We went from one dugout to the next, everywhere from Coos Bay, Ore., to Bradenton, Fla., and I never really felt at home in one place. When I went to Hawaii for the first time in the ’80s, the first time I met Joe, I got off the plane and I had this indescribable feeling that this is home and it’s always remained that for me.”
It might seem that it was a rebellion thing that drove Reinebold to football although his father was in baseball, but he says that wasn’t the case.
“With my Shoppers Drug Mart psychology degree, I’m going to tell you that it was probably that being in coaching was a way of honouring him, but being in football was probably a way of establishing my own identity,” he said. “I remember as a high school athlete, whether it was football or baseball, whenever I did something I was always Coach Reinebold’s kid. In football it gave me a little bit of an identity of my own. When I was 5 he used to take us to clinics he put on and my brother and I would do demonstrations on how to slide. I was around coaching my whole life. I’ve yet to see a teaching coach as good as my father was and I don’t say that because he’s my dad. I say that because it’s true. It’s kind of been what I was always destined to do.”
When Reinebold left Alumni Stadium, he had a bigger insight into Gryphon football.
“There’s no secret why this team is so successful. They’ve got good players. They’re well coached. These kids, there’s a legacy of success here. They want to be good, but you have to hold up your end of the bargain. When you watch the defence run up that hill and touch that Team First sign, you can see that it’s more than a slogan. It’s more than a cliché. It’s what they believe in.”