Former Gryphon receiver Alex Charette is glad to see that high school players now are getting a chance he never had when he was in high school about a decade ago.
“I never attended a camp like this,” he said during a break in the Gryphons’ elite skills camp at the Gryphon Fieldhouse. “Something I never had an opportunity to go to is a camp like this and learn from CFL pros and university coaches. I never had that before I got to Guelph.
“In high school, we didn’t meet. I went to a small high school and we didn’t have meetings. It was on the field and that was it.”
Now a member of the Grey Cup-champion Toronto Argos, Charette played high school football in St. Catharines before joining the Gryphons in 2011.
“It’s nostalgic to be back here and be back with the coaches, back with (interim head coach Todd) Galloway and back working with (receivers coach Alex) Derma again,” Charette said. “I love trying to give back. This is definitely something that benefits the kids because they can come out and see where they are with other kids in their age group. You’re not at practice with your friends, it’s a specific skills camp and the best thing about it is the meetings. That’s something I would’ve benefitted a lot from, being in those meeting rooms and seeing that this is football.”
The meetings help maximize the on-field time. In the case of the receivers, they had a chance to learn in the meetings and then immediately put the lessons to practise on the field.
“Everything we did on the field today, we had already taught in the classroom,” Charette said. “We were going over waggles, which is attacking the line of scrimmage, and how to beat your defender with the different nuances of the game. You can go over that, draw it up, ask questions and have a back-and-forth with the kids so they can really try to learn. They have notebooks, too, so they can write it down, take it home and work on it at a later date versus coming right onto the field.”
That time in the classroom gives the clinic participants a chance for more time using the newly-learned skills on the field.
“You still have to coach it, but it’s hard to show a bad technique or coach a drill on the fly because the clock’s running,” Charette said. “You want reps when you’re out here (on the field), that’s why it’s nice to be in the classroom. You can move slow, talk about everything and out on the field you can get reps.”
Out on the field, every participant was watched by Charette, other former Gryphons who are now in the CFL and by current Gryphons players and coaches and each received some one-on-one time on the field.
“It’s specific to the kid,” Charette said of the individual attention given to the participants. “If they finish a rep and I see something, I’ll coach that up. We have major coaching points we emphasize – win at the line of scrimmage, attack the defensive back with speed and, obviously, finish with the catch and get upfield.”
Charette also had a specific he had the for the receivers, something he noticed that happened often.
“Always coming back to the quarterback was probably one of the main themes today because a lot of the kids would make their cut and drift away from the quarterback and that makes it harder because the defensive player can come underneath,” he said. “That’s probably the No. 1 point, trying to teach them how to properly run routes like a professional.”
Charette also felt the clinic helped the receivers with tips on how to beat one-on-one coverage.
“They get to learn some of the techniques to defeat man coverage,” he said. “As a receiver or DB, those are the crunch moments where you have no help. You’re not sitting in a zone and you’re not running a route into a zone. You’ve got to beat the man-on-man. That’s where the money’s made.”