Friday June 17th 2022

As I disembarked the plane on Sunday evening, landing in Montreal after a delay in our departure from our layover stop in Winnipeg (and another one in Montreal thanks to the fact that another plane was parked in our spot), I was able to reflect a bit on my weekend that had just passed. It’s only now, after several days that I’ve been able to put pen to paper so to speak and elaborate what happened at the tournament.

Athletes are poised and ready to go!

The Canadian Nationals had just taken place after a three year hiatus thanks to the Pandemic. Our sport had been pretty much shut down here in Quebec, due to the fact that combat sports were one of the last to be allowed to return to training. While I understand the reasons behind it, it was nevertheless a frustrating three years.

To put some context to this, the last major tournament I coached at was the Matteo Pellicone in Sardinia in May of 2019. While the Pandemic didn’t start till late March of 2020, the fact remains that both the National Championships and other international tournaments were cancelled shortly afterwards. While I was thankful I was able to coach my team at the 2020 GMAA/RSEQ city championships in February, I had not coached at a Senior tournament since the Brock Invitational in January of that year.

What a great venue to hold the Nationals!

Coaching at a senior tournament or a major one is very different than at coaching lower level tournaments. The stakes tend to be just that much higher and the pressure to perform, a little bit more. In the lower level tournaments, the emphasis is often placed on the process rather than the results. As coaches, we alter our style and approach based on the athletes we’re coaching. While all levels require the same attention and care, the level of intensity and expectations are very different in the various tournaments.

Coaching at tournaments is like competing. You need to do it often if you’re to maintain a certain level of proficiency. It also helps to have some tournaments at a higher level in order to have the experience in dealing with the faster pace and higher difficulty. To not coach for an extended period means that you’re going to be rusty no matter what. That’s how I felt after the past weekend.

When departing for Calgary, I had only three athletes in my care. Connor, a new recruit who had graduated from Loyola. Ryder, the younger brother of one our current wrestlers. And Giuliana, the last athlete from the now defunct Vincent Massey Collegiate Rams Wrestling Club. For my return to a major tournament after so many years away, I couldn’t have asked for a better scenario.

I don’t think I look good on the Jumbotron!

The tournament began with the younger girls and the younger age group for the boys. Again, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation as my sole focus was Giuliana for the first day of competition. While I had offered my services to another team (having worked with their athletes in the past), they were covered quite well, allowing me to keep my sole focus on my primary athlete that day.

While finishing up with the Bronze Medal, she was competitive in every match

As an athlete, I was always critical of my performances. As I coach, I would say that I’m just as critical of my performances in the corner. To be clear, my athlete performed well enough on the first day and I was extremely proud of her for what she did. However, I’ll be the first to admit that it took me a while to get back into the swing of things. Like riding a bicycle, it came back pretty quickly. However, had been coaching on a regular basis before that, it probably wouldn’t have even been an issue.

The competition was smaller though the level of competition was pretty good. This was a welcome surprise as going into the tournament, we didn’t know what to expect. As per usual, some weights were quite large in size, while others were smaller. Though there were some mismatches, the level of the tournament was balanced for the most part.

One of the other things that happened on that weekend was seeing some coaches that I had not seen in person for many years. It was good to see that they were back to coaching and that they still had kids involved.

Good experience that can only come from competition 

Finally, it was nice to see some of the members of Team Quebec start to interact with other wrestlers from other clubs. While we coach these kids to win, having fun, especially at this age group is very important as well.

Overall, I would have to rate this as a successful trip. While the results were good, the learning that can only come from a tournament of this caliber was invaluable. Many of the athletes came back with a renewed purpose to train harder, wanting to improve on their performances. I can definitely say that the future looks bright.

Members of Team Quebec hang out to watch the matches