After months filled with uncertainty, a big step towards a return to play was taken last week when the Canadian Football League announced the new start date; We now know that our season will kick off on August 5th! Of course, this pandemic has taught us to remain vigilant as the situation can evolve quickly, but as Canada’s vaccine rollout speeds up, we have even more reasons to be optimistic that we will see our fans in the stands very soon.
These are very positive news for our fans, but also for our players and coaches who, for the past year, have faced unprecedented uncertainty. Nothing could’ve prepared them for the challenge of preparing amid the ambiguity created by a global pandemic. We asked our new ambassador and former legendary quarterback Anthony Calvillo shared his thoughts about the big announcement and its repercussions on the players.
“With the initial start date getting closer and closer and the number of cases increasing, especially in Ontario, I wasn’t surprised to see the beginning of the season re-scheduled. I’m glad the announcement was made, especially for the players and the coaches, who now have an official version and a target date for which they can prepare. It’s encouraging to see that there is a plan in place, even if we know that the situation can change very quickly. Overall, it’s very positive.”
20 months… That’s the amount of time elapsed between the 2019 Grey Cup (the last game of the season) and the beginning of the 2021 season. We’ve said it over and over again, it’s been a tough time for our players who’ve been deprived of their sport, and who will now have to be in top condition to be back on the field 20 months later.
“It’s going to be a challenge for the players. When I played, I always worked with a routine. I knew the important dates and I made sure to always be physically and mentally ready for the start camp. Mentally, it must have been very tough for the players to be constantly waiting for a return to play.”
“But physically, too, because I know the situation is different depending on where they live. In the United States, I think most of the training centers stayed open, but here in Canada, it’s very different. Our Canadian players have had to adapt their training programs to the equipment they had available. They had to be innovative.”
As a former star player and current football coach for the Montreal University Carabins, Anthony knows they won’t make excuses for themselves.
“It must have been very difficult and frustrating, but these guys are professionals. I believe the coaching staff provided them with many resources to keep them focused and in shape, so I’m sure they’ll be ready!”
The coaches too were had to deal with all the uncertainty. Anthony experienced it first hand with the Carabins. He’s very aware that the return to play will be a challenge for the university-level athletes too.
“It’s definitely an abnormal situation. I’m sure everyone is doing their best in terms of preparation. The coaches will also have to adapt the way they work because even though the players worked individually, they haven’t played together in 20 months. We’re going to have to find ways to click quickly get the ball rolling again and be competitive while doing everything in our power to prevent injuries.”
Talking about preparation and professionalism, Vernon Adam Jr.’s initiative to fly out over a dozen of offensive players and organize training sessions and activities to start building chemistry and get ready for training camp didn’t go unnoticed by Anthony.
“I think it’s great when a team leader takes the initiative to plan activities with his players. Not only does it help the guys grow as athletes, but it creates chemistry on a deeper more personal level. It’s great that Vernon is taking this initiative. It shows that he has great leadership skills that will steer the team towards team success on and off the field.”
It’s been a challenging year for all of us. We’ve had to deal with the repercussions of this pandemic, adapt to change, and learn to navigate uncertainty. But one thing is certain; our players and coaches are ready to take up the gauntlet and give the fans an incredible show…A show we’ve been waiting to see for a long time now…
“Everyone hopes to get back to a more normal life and I know the government is pushing for people to get vaccinated so things can return to what they were before the pandemic. I got my first shot already. I’m looking forward to traveling again, going to the restaurant, but mostly going to the stadium with my family.
I hope that our fans will be present in large numbers when the season starts because our players will need their support. I’m looking forward to feeling the electric atmosphere of the stadium with them!”