August 14, 2019

Hogan: Argos coaches coaching coaches

Mike Hogan with files from Jason Colero

Everyone who gets to the pro football level has one or two people they can tip their cap to, someone who has provided direction along their journey. For coaches, there are usually too many people to mention, as the best coaches seem to take the most enviable qualities of all the coaches they’ve played for or worked with, and created a gumbo of attributes to feed from.

For a group of fifty youth coaches, they were fed a ton of techniques and information as they attended a Coaches Open House recently hosted by the Toronto Argonauts. The youth coaches, representing both tackle and flag football, had the opportunity to attend practice, and more importantly meetings.

“They had the same access as the players have,” said Julia Di Nardo the Argos Community and Player Relations Coordinator. “It’s a one of a kind, exclusive event that’s never been done before in Argos history. They were sitting in on practice, sitting in on things I don’t think any professional team has allowed before. They had the chance to ask questions in positional meetings.”

The reason for the initiative was quite simple.

“The objective was to promote football at the grass-roots level in Toronto,” said Di Nardo. “We wanted the coaches to leave with things they could take back to their own teams, their own coaches, the youth in their own community and maybe one day those kids will be playing for some of the coaches they learned from here.”

The day of access to Argos coaches is part of a wider strategy by the organization to help build up interest in football among youths. Things like a partnership with the Toronto Flag Football League, the pre-season game with a few thousand school kids in the stands, a program where 2,000 youth footballs will be distributed – all trying to turn kids on to the sport of football generally, and the Argos brand specifically.

The Double Blue coaching staff jumped at the opportunity to pay it forward.

“The biggest thing, it’s an opportunity to give back,” said Argos Head Coach Chamblin following the practice. “I really enjoy it, one of my passions is teaching. Whether it’s teaching the young men, teaching the older men or teaching the coaches. When you look at my role as a head coach, that role is to coach the coaches.”

The Argos have formed a great relationship with the Toronto Flag Football League. If you watch a TFFL game you’ll see teams wearing different colour tee-shirts, but every one of those shirts has a big Argo logo on the front.

The Commissioner of the league is Ryan Borenstein

“It was awesome,” said the Commish of the Open House. “It was cool to see how professional the Argos are, and how thorough they are through the practices and how prepared the coaches are.”

While obviously geared to tackle football, the lessons learned didn’t exclude the flag version of the sport.

“This is all about tackle football,” admitted Borenstein after the event was over, ”But what the majority of the coaches have been speaking about is the fundamentals of football, which translates perfectly to flag football. It’s all about watching the players focusing on catching, focusing on their route running.”

Coaches who teach tackle football were also captivated by the proceedings, including Steve Karam, the Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach with the Scarborough Thunder.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to get a chance to see what professionals do what we do on a younger level,” said Karam. “We could pick the brains of professional coaches, watch what they’re doing and bring a lot of that back to our youth levels and instill a connective community of football where foundational, fundamental skills are being brought back to younger student athletes.”

His favourite part? It should be no surprise what the QB coach liked best.

“Just being in the quarterback room,” admitted Karam. “As a quarterback I love watching the learning process, the analytical process that goes into watching film. Seeing quarterbacks with a professional coach break that down was a lot of fun.”

Getting to see how a pro team operates and getting the opportunity to sit in with the Argos during meetings is an experience none of the amateur coaches will soon forget.

They can now take what they’ve learned and share it with their players, something that not only helps the kids improve as players, but hopefully helps create a life-long love affair with the sport of football.