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Patrick Gregory in his ofice
Patrick Gregory and Islanders football team at the 2012 Hudson St-Patrick Day parade

Peu de temps après l'annonce émise par le CEGEP John Abbott qu'ils avaient choisi Patrick Gregory comme son nouvel entraîneur-chef de l'équipe de football des Islanders je l'ai contacté et j'ai lui demandé s'il acceptait de faire une entrevue afin de permettre a tout le monde de lui mieux connaitre ainsi que d'apprendre quel est son approche par rapport a une équipe de football collégiale de point de vue d'un entraineur.

Il avait accepté l'invitation et le 6 février je l'ai rencontré à  son bureau au Collège John Abbott, o๠nous avons passé a peu près 40 minutes en discutant de nombreux sujets sur le football en général de même que l'équipe des Islanders en particulier. Il était clair dès le départ qu'il apportait avec lui une approche radicalement différente au programme de football et jusqu'à  quel point il s'est engagé à  rendre le programme un succès.

Le texte ci-dessous représente un résumé de ses positions sur de nombreux sujets différents. On peut trouver l'entretien complet dans le fichier PDF ci-joint.
Shortly after the announcement that John Abbott College had selected Patrick Gregory as its new head coach of the Islanders football team I contacted him and asked him if he would agree to do an interview so that everyone could find out more about him and his approach to coaching a CEGEP football team.

He agreed and on February 6th I met him at his office at John Abbott College where we spent about 40 minutes discussing many different aspects of football in general and the Islanders team in particular. It was clear right from the beginning that he was bringing with him a radically different approach to the football program and how committed he was to make the program a success.

The text below represents just a summary of his position on many different topics. The complete transcript of the interview can be found in the attached PDF file.

About the selection of his coaches

It's almost set. Offensively we're pretty much set. From last year, our o-line coach Steve Graham is returning. Steve was someone that I had a chance to coach when I was at Concordia and also when I came here and I started asking around about how things went down Steve was someone who got high marks from the players and also from the people down here. The other guy we added is a gentleman called Bob Bindon. Bob will work with our o-line. Also, Bob was the head coach at John Abbott until 1997 when they were AAA. I coached with Bob at Concordia, 98 to 2001. We went to the Vanier Cup together. Bob coached at Concordia and went on to coach at McGill and spent last year at Queen's. We also retained Yves Cuillerier. He was on the staff last year as a receiver coach. The last gentleman on offense that we have is a guy called Jeff Roberts. Jeff is a Greenfield Park guy, who was part of some great football teams at Champlain Lennoxville as a player, at Bishop's as a player, and he's gone on to coach extensively since then. On defense, we brought back Lou Chapman as the d-line coach. Lou was the head coach of the Abbott team before Justin and Lou is still employed at Abbott as an academic advisor, very passionate guy about football. The last gentleman right now that's official is Pierre-Paul Dorélien. I know Pierre-Paul through common friends. Pierre-Paul was at CVM, Vieux-Montreal, when the program started to change direction and was part of some great teams at CVM.

(ed.: since this interview, the Islanders have added Marc Faubert and Derrick Joseph to their defensive staff. Marc is a Phys. Ed. teacher at St-Thomas High School. He is a former John Abbott football player who coached there in the 90's before moving on to Concordia University. Derrick and Patrick Gregory go back to their days at Bishop's. He was an outstanding CIS football player there. He is an experienced football coach who most recently was part of the North Shore program. Derrick was the DC for the 2011 Mustangs.)

About his approach to coach selection

The thing for me that is important, I mean, John Abbott has a long tradition of football. They've played football since the early seventies. Lots of successes and there is a lot of people for whom Abbott means a lot, it's been a big part of their lives and Bob and Lou and Steve even, there is some people there, their roots run deep at Abbott. But I also wanted, it was important to bring a kind of fresh outlook also. I'm part of that, obviously, because my roots at Abbott are just starting but it was also important in the coaching staff that that would reflect that.

About off-season training

Our players have been handed a weight training plan, they're working out with that. The other phase, what we call the agility workout. We're going to have 12 of those, once a week, we start on Thursday and then we are going to go every Tuesday evening and basically we're developing the explosiveness and movement skills. They'll be one hour sessions in a team format.

We'll start to work together, the coaches and the players, and start to build for 2012. Then the second part is what we call football specific workouts. We'll have eight of those. We start on February 25, then we have seven more through March and April.

About goals for the upcoming season

What I haven't done is set goals in terms of wins and losses and I probably won't do that. We have set objectives on what we want to get out of our off-season, our winter/spring workouts from building team cohesion, from learning how to work hard together, bringing energy and enthousiasm and all that. This program is going to be better. There is no doubt in my mind it's going to succeed from a football point of view. In terms of wins and losses, but rather than focus on that, the core word is focus on the process, focus on the culture, and I believe that. I believe you have to look at how you do things, put in place the structure to do things in the right way and surround our program with good people, good, talented people and once we do that then the rest will take care of itself and I firmly believe in that.

About the support that the football program receives at John Abbott

I'll tell you what, Zbig, there is no doubt that the level of passion, the level of excitement that the guys have is no less than what I have experienced at university level. And I would even apply that to John Abbott - there is a buzz, a level of excitement about the changes that are on the way and that goes beyond just the people in athletics. It's very clear, there is people that genuinely want to see the football program in our case or the athletics be something that we're very proud of and at the same level as some of the other things at the school. I sense all of that. The people I've talked to have all been very helpful, they all want to know how I'm doing, they all volunteer some help.

About differences between CEGEP and university football, especially three downs vs four downs.

I told you, I'm exited about that. I might petition for a fifth down but I don't know if I would get that. I'm looking forward to play calling four downs. I've been doing it for the last 10 years at the three down level. To me, as an offensive guy, to be able to have that extra down, to be able to run on a first down if you choose to and still be able to have an open situation. A pass on a first down, even if it's incomplete, you can still have an option to run or pass, I think it's outstanding. I'm looking forward to four downs.

About his approach to building a team

I think you have to have in place a structure, a system, a terminology that you put in place. That's your base and then you need to be able to tailor it to where your strengths and your weaknesses are. You have to play to your strengths, you have to play away from your weaknesses. You have to be able to use what you have and attack your opponent's weaknesses and maybe work around what their areas of strength are without necessarily changing who you are from week to week.

About his approach to recruiting players

I've visited, I haven't kept count, probably at least 12 different high schools individually and basically what I do when I go in, I'm going to Cite-des-Jeunes tomorrow, we've been to Dalbé-Viau, College Ste-Anne in Lachine. But what I want to do is I want to go into these schools, first of all make them aware of John Abbott, who we are, what we do. I want to tell them about what our plan is, what our vision is for this football program and I also what to find out in those schools if they're graduating players of quality that have an interest to study in the West Island, studying at John Abbott, studying in English, playing football out here and all that. My challenge, our challenge, is to go and find those Abbott guys, guys that are looking for a high academic experience, they're looking for a good football experience also.

About relationship with midget teams

I'm sensitive to what's going on, you know, and what I've told the coaches that I've spoken to is that, especially with the North Shore, Lakeshore, St-Lazare, we're in each others' backyard and that we're basically neighbors anyway. So, I'd like to put in place a relationship of respect and also a relationship of working together. I understand what they're trying to do, I understand how much it means to them to be successful and I don't need to tell them how important that is to us also.

About making JAC games more visible

You know what would be interesting, even if we couldn't get it televised, I think the whole aspect of webcasting that would be definitely an avenue now that could be interesting. I understand there is cost in televising and all that but I think now you could do it on a webcast probably with minimum technology as far as the camera and stuff. I think there is stuff there that can be done for sure.

About his own coaching style

My plan is to coordinate the offense and play call this year on offense so obviously I'm going to be very involved in the play-by-play progress of the team on offense. I also, as the head coach, have to be in control of special teams and then defense but my approach on game day I can be pretty passionate. I'm pretty passionate about football. How it's perceived I think the closer we get to game day, the closer we get to those very emotional moments the calmer I tend to be. My experience at university, I tend to be more calm in those types of moments just because I think that's what you need to be.

About his approach to leading the players

I think you need to be consistent. I think what the guys will struggle with, if you're calm and all of a sudden you're a madman. I think they'll adjust, they'll know that some guys are in your face passionate,some guys will love that, some guys it won't be as effective but if it's consistent they'll be able to adjust and usually prosper with it. I think what's hard is when they're not too sure what to expect. I think when they expect to be yelled at and they're not yelled at or when they're not used to that and all of a sudden it comes out I think that's where most difficulties come from.

Après le match éliminatoire contre les Raiders de Châteauguay, suite à  l'annonce de Skip Rochette qu'il quitterait son poste de l'entraîneur-chef de l'équipe junior des Stallions j'espérais que je serais en mesure de lui poser quelques questions à  propos de l'équipe et de ses expériences comme entraîneur.
 Il avait eu de la gentillesse de m'appeler le 23 novembre et m'a donné une opportunité de m'entretenir avec lui par téléphone.

Voici le contenu de cet entretien. Info: la conversation a commencé par une brève discussion sur sa famille qui venait de s'installer chez elle en Floride, de mes expériences au gala LFJQ et la réaction que mon rapport avait provoqué ainsi que sur les pièges potentiels des couriels.

When Skip Rochette announced soon after the playoff game against the Chateauguay Raiders that he would be stepping down as the head coach of the Junior Stallions team I was hoping that I would be able to ask him a few questions about the team and about his coaching experience.
He was kind enough to call me on November 23 and gave me a chance to interview him by phone.

Below is the content of that interview. Note: the conversation started with a short discussion about Skip's family settling down in their Florida home, about my experiences at the QJFL banquet and the reaction that my report generated as well as about the potential pitfalls of e-mail messages.

Zbig Jasiukajc

Overall, how would you evaluate the 2010 season? Did you set goals, for example, with the coaching staff, did you give yourself a record, for example four-and-four or something like that? To you, was it a successful season and how did you see it?

Skip Rochette

Definitely. OK, in terms of the personal goals within myself that I had set, I was hoping that we would make the playoffs and then I knew with making the playoffs anything could happen. I was hoping we were strong enough to get there. Let's face it, the playoffs this year was right to the semi-finals and the Stallions have never been there before and it was, in many ways, quite a new team, while a lot of guys who were on the previous teams were not around. We definitely had a good nucleus of guys that were. It was definitely a difficult situation when you don't have that carry-over effect. My goal was to, in fact, make the playoffs and again, like I said, I knew that anything could happen at that point and we almost pulled it off. Taking that question in another context, I had also set a goal for myself that I felt we could attract through running the program a little bit differently more players to the program to practice and also to play, obviously. From that perspective I thought that it was a failure. I was really quite disappointed with the turnout you might say, and I don't mean that we only had 24 players at the practices but the fact that we only had 29 players on the team. I would have hoped that the program could have attracted more people.


That's been my kind of objective as well and partly what does it is publicity. You need to let people know that there is this opportunity, there is a team that's available, that we're putting together some talent, that we want to win the whole thing, but it's a well-kept secret.


Well, yes, exactly, it's a well-kept secret, and for some reason there has been some political stuff that has been flying around for a couple of years. I have been told that there have been people in the past in the organization that have not promoted the fact that people could go play for the juniors etc.


There was a big difference, for example, in the first year. We had advertisements on the radio, in the newspapers. They certainly drummed it up in the first year, 2008, but in 2009 and 2010, nothing.


So that was surprising. In terms of evaluating the season, that would have been the disappointing side to it.


OK, what do you think would make the Stallions junior program more successful? For example, to be able to beat the Chateauguay Raiders or the Jr. Riders?


Well, the bottom line, the issue is, if I can say it this way, we need more and better players.


More depth, I guess.


First of all, in numbers. Numbers could have helped because it would have given us the opportunity to have a little better competition. Therefore, guys would be better. But, secondly, we needed to be better in certain areas to be able to compete and we had some very week areas on the team to be able to compete. We had some very strong areas but we had some very week ones.


Yeah, it would have been nice to have some more depth at some positions.


Exactly. With depth guys can learn and you can practice better. You can do a whole lot of things with depth. When you don't have any it becomes very difficult for the guys to improve and put them in situation to improve and help themselves. You know, when the lines are short it's hard to get repetitions and run practices because players, you might say, save themselves when they know they're up again in 20 seconds.


Mind you, your system, initially I can tell you people on the sidelines, including myself, and keep in mind I'm not a good judge of football, I don't know much background, we were worried. What do you mean you will not have scrimmages and things like that? But I think that worked out for the best.


Well, it did, in the sense that we didn't have depth and you couldn't afford to lose anybody in a scrimmage. Because of injuries, we offset the scrimmages with a lot of one-on-one stuff and tried to do that regularly because in one-on-ones guys can protect themselves. Mind you, I will tell you that a lack of scrimmages is definitely what hurt us, especially in the first game. I don't mind saying that, I recognize that. Once we got the first game out of the way we were fine. So, we probably only needed one scrimmage, full scrimmage, to be able to do that but we didn't have the numbers to do that at any point, even in training camps leading up to the first game. So, in many ways it was difficult and you certainly don't want to go get an exhibition game and risk losing somebody because you end up playing him two ways because you don't have the depth. We spent a lot of time, as you saw in practice, doing one-on-ones and giving guys a lot of individual attention to improve their skills despite not having a full coaching staff. I know the coaching staff that we did have worked very hard and were very appreciative of working with me. I got a lot of e-mails from them.


On that subject of coaching, you announced that you will not be returning as a head coach to the Stallions but will you still be continuing when you're back in Canada next year? Will you still be involved in football in some way? Do you want to be involved in football in some way?


Well, I would like to be. I love coaching. I'm very passionate about coaching. I would like to coach somewhere with somebody. Where, I don't know and with whom at this point I don't know. But I would certainly like to do it. If I don't then I don't. I move on and that's fine. It's interesting; I get a lot of phone calls. I get phone calls form guys even asking me about coaching, you know. Believe it or not I just got an e-mail today from somebody who had played for me and wanted to talk to me about getting into coaching and the kinds of things one needs to do.


I'm sure you'll find a place somewhere.


You know, I have a problem in that in many ways I can be intimidating in being around coaches so it takes special guys to allow me to coach with them. They've got to leave their ego on the sideline, not that I will take things over, not that, but the presence when I'm around can be a bit intimidating.


I guess it's just a question of a comfort factor. I mean, different coaches have different styles and you just have to be comfortable with that style.


The coach who would hire me would have to be comfortable with himself, really, and know that he's going to get everything he gets out of me and we'll get results. But it takes a special coach to be able to deal with that and some guys can't.


Continuing on the coaching situation, when you started head coaching this year, was it your intent to just simply stay for one year, or would you have wanted to continue.


I would definitely have wanted to continue. I kind of had it in my mind that I would like to set up a program, make it run properly, get it running properly, do the things the way they need to be done. You saw we did some different things this year. I'll give you a simple example. I remember you asking me why we need to go to the games so early. It's because of how I want the guys to prepare, the seriousness of the game. We're not going to just show up at the last second, throw everything on. I want the guys to learn how to prepare for games, how to play, and all those things. You saw what I did with the film, which was different. For example, that last week when we prepared for Chateauguay, how we would look at film every night because I would have loved to have gotten it to that level where we could look at film every single time we practice. Then you really learn because you can zero in on different aspects of it and teach different things on different nights and the players are able to see it, to see themselves and see what they do. It all has to be done at the right level. On the one hand, you have to challenge them but on the other hand you have to try and teach them too. And you're not just yelling and screaming. You're more like, on the one hand trying to teach them and on the other hand saying what are you doing?

On peut trouver l'entretien complét dans le fichier PDF ci-dessous. The complete interview is contained in the PDF file below,

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