August 10, 2020

Hogan: Argos host first ever virtual coaches open house

Coaches are a special breed. They put in countless hours watching video, looking for anything that will give their team an advantage, then pass on what they find to their players.

Sadly, that’s not happening now.

While the Toronto Argonauts coaching staff continues to prepare for a season that may or may not happen, a couple of them recently took some time to participate in an online Coaches Open House. The event was held last year at the practice field, then at BMO Field, but that was unable to happen this year.

Instead, Head Coach Ryan Dinwiddie and Defensive Coordinator Glen Young took questions from amateur coaches who had registered to join the Zoom session.

It worked extremely well.

”We did it more of a Q and A style,” said Julia Di Nardo, the Argos Coordinator of Community and Player Relations. “We were going to go ahead with just Ryan and Glen talking, but then we thought if those in attendance submitted some questions beforehand that it would be more interactive. Coach Dinwiddie wanted to answer the questions and wanted to talk about what the coaches wanted to hear as opposed to just talking at a screen.”

There were benefits to holding the Coaches Open House this way. Last year some 50 coaches shadowed the Argos staff through a practice and had the chance to sit in the meeting rooms. This year over 100 coaches watched the online Q and A session, and questions that had been submitted in the lead-up to the event were asked of Dinwiddie and Young.

“That’s more than double what we could allow for our in-person Open House due to space because they’d be in on team meetings,” Di Nardo told in a phone interview. “This way our reach was so much further that we hope to continue, in conjunction with our in-person Coaches Open House, which is more of an exclusive experience. Do a virtual one just so coaches that aren’t in Toronto, that are across Canada, can tune in and hear from our coaches.”

Di Nardo stressed that while last year’s session had a more unique feel to it, this year’s event was important to continue the organization’s connection with the youth football community.

“The face-to-face forum was a much better, and much more exclusive experience. We wanted to keep our Argos community engaged, especially when football isn’t top of mind with everything else that’s going on right now. We wanted to keep them connected to the team and reassure them they’re a part of the Argos family even though we’re not playing in front of them at BMO Field.”

Dinwiddie and Young were engaged and engaging. The head coach explained how the time off has allowed him additional time with his family, while the defensive coordinator spoke passionately about his aquariums and his collection of tropical fish.

But when it came to talking football with the amateur coaches, both men were all in.

“Being around the sport for most of my life as a player,” Dinwiddie told participants in a post-event email, “And now coaching for the past few years, I not only understand, but fully appreciate all the work and commitment that you are making to support your teams. As coaches we have the unique opportunity to help shape young athletes’ lives on and off the field and your presence speaks a lot to your willingness to tackle this large responsibility, so I’d like to personally thank you for that.”

The Open House was a different format, but Di Nardo says the feedback was equally positive.

“One of our coaches, Ryan from the Toronto Flag Football League, attended last year and again this year. He said this year’s was more informative. Last year there was no time to ask questions of the coaches, they just got to peek behind the curtains of what a day is like at practice, so they learned more from the question and answer portion. It was more relatable because when you see the coaches in-person they were busy prepping their players, they had a game day coming up. This year was more open and relaxed and targeted toward youth player development.”

That’s been the challenge for Di Nardo and the rest of her team, maintaining the Argos level of participation in the community while adhering to the health guidelines necessary during a pandemic.

Her group’s creativity was certainly on display for a well-received Open House.