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Hugo Richard was 7 years old when he donned a football uniform for the first time. He wore the colours of the Saint-Bruno Barons and played in the Titan category. His dad was the coach; volunteer, of course.
“I remember that he was pretty tough with me. Practices last forever sometimes,” he recalls. “However, it allowed us to spend a lot of time together and develop a great relationship. To this day, we have projects together.”
Football and sports in general were always a family affair for the Richards. Mom plays tennis, dad plays hockey, sister tried a whole lot of different sports just like her brother. When his friends talk about the cartoons they used to watch, Hugo can hardly relate. As a kid, he didn’t watch TV, he played outside. And he still sort of wishes he could do that all the time.
We often hear about concussions and injuries in the football world. As a matter of fact, our sport lost popularity over the last decade. In Canada, there were over 180,000 players ten years ago. Today, the total sits at roughly 100,000. Of course, parental concern is normal, but progress made in terms of player safety should be taken into consideration. The equipment, the tackling techniques as well as the new and innovative ways to play – such as Ultimate Football – are at the heart of our league’s and team’s preoccupations.
Truth is, there are more happy stories than we think. Certainly more than horror stories. Football, like any other sport, entails risks, but what we should retain mostly is that it’s inclusive.
“Anyone can become a good football player”, insists Hugo. “Obviously, you need a minimum of coordination and strength, but regardless of your body type, you can find a spot on a team. What you really need is the will to progress and passion.”
Hugo was always more than willing. In secondary 3, as he had just started to play at pivot, he was forced to choose between football and hockey. Tough choice? Well, not so much. Hugo felt like he would learn more on the gridiron than on the ice.
“I loved the challenge. Football took me out of my comfort zone and I saw more opportunities to grow and succeed,” he says to explain his decision. “I kept going because there’s no limit. There’s always something new to learn.”
After playing for the Saint-Bruno Barons, Hugo was part of the Collège Durocher Impact, the Notre-Dame Cactus, the Vanier College Cheetahs and the Laval U Rouge et Or. Last year, he hoisted the Vanier Cup, then was offered his first pro contract, here, at the Alouettes. The fond memories he keeps of all these great seasons are countless – winning the Ballon d’argent at the 2006 provincial championship as a Pee-Wee is definitely one of the best ones – but what keeps mostly are friendships.
“I made so many different friends through different sports. The spirit of camaraderie is extremely important in football. A team is comparable to a micro-society. At Laval, we were constantly reminded to treat others the way we wanted to be treated,” says Hugo. “Of course, we were taught discipline, nutrition, proper training methods, how to be performance driven, but respecting your team mates and coaches was always number one.”
Over the years, Hugo learned the true meaning of respect and, above all, he developed self-control. As a highly emotional player, he has always been very vocal on the field. It’s great… under certain circumstances.
“It’s a double-edged sword. I communicated a lot, but not always the right way and it affected the people around me,” admits Hugo. “It’s important to know when to react, the practice positive reinforcement and to address corrections in a constructive manner.”
We hear simple and happy stories like Hugo’s every day. Each one of our players has his own love affair with football and each one became the man he is today partly thanks to the values he was taught on the field and in the locker room.