I wish I could accurately describe the feelings and emotions that shoot through a guy as the clock dwindles down to the first FULL team meeting on the eve of Day 1...
There’s a ton of descriptive phrases and words that I could throw out, but I think that the most appropriate for the myriad of options that I have would be to sum up the beginning of one’s new journey with this…
By now a selected few have gotten their TSN promo shots out of the way and the equipment guys are already close to being overworked. They’re sick of the sound that buckling a chin strap makes, and if one more wide receiver complains about the fit of their new shoulder pads, nobody will get the new camp tees that are supposed to be laid out!!! #FreeTeamGear
Packing one’s bags for the trek to training camp was a lot more annoying than expected due to the overwhelming presence of uncertainty, but those contents that did make the trip are now unpacked in order of importance. Practice accessories, toothbrush, flip flops and shorts that you’ll probably wear for the ENTIRE stay...
I once was told by a coach that he could always tell the pretenders by the way they came to meetings during camp, “If they ass was always dressed up, wearing a different pair of J’s to every dam meeting, they’d be the first ones getting cut…too worried about the wrong thing.”
I never tested that theory but I’m sure it’s valid.
Anyway…Stewing in your room is never healthy, so one last look at the schedule that was given out upon arriving at the hotel or dorm room, and it’s off to find the main meeting auditorium.
Nobody wants to be the dummy that arrives late and is forced to interrupt the beginning of the 1st meeting. If you are THAT GUY, the loudest noise you could ever make in your life is nothing compared to having to open that door and interrupt either the head coach or a GM. That feeling is worse than any college sorority walk-of-shame, cause you can literally feel everyone in the room judging you and saying “see-ya.” *If you’re early, you’re on time…If you’re on time, you’re LATE*
For established vets, it’s great to see some of the boys again; sure there are some cats that you could go another couple weeks without, however, even those guys bring a smile to your face and get some love because they’re someone you’ve gone to battle with and have sacrificed for.
There’s always changes during the off season, so any familiar face is a welcome sight.
It’s also a chance to size up any competition that the staff may have brought in for you, whether it be through trade, free agency, or the CFL draft.
It’s always funny introducing yourself to a guy that plays the exact same position as you,
“Hey man, I’m ____________ nice to meet you. How was your off season?”
*automatically flexes all muscles possible* #DontAskMeForAnyHelp #JustKiddingSorta
There's another side of the coin to this...Not everyone is an established vet.
Throughout the crowd you can always spot the rookies that are trying to figure out where they belong, and how they`re going to navigate their way through this whole deal. They’re either tied to the hip of another newcomer, or sticking to themselves with headphones in, trying to act inconspicuous until they can find the first available seat in the meeting room and just blend it. You'll also note the vice-grip hold that they have on their playbook. #YourNewBible
For those newbies, Its one thing to work out all off-season with the goal being to make the team. But once that team is in front of you and the competition is right around the corner, the nerves start to talk a lot more than your personal best in the squat rack.
To make matters worse, the “International” rookies have been hearing about this thing called “the ratio” and you can see some of them doing the math in their heads. No matter how many times it’s been explained to them, the end result always sounds like they’ve got to climb Mount Everest with a toothpick, just to make the dang practice roster! Up until this point, the only CFL snaps most of them have watched is during November when Chris Berman informs ESPN watchers of who just won the Grey Cup. Mix a brand new game, with another reason it sucks to have an American passport anywhere other than America, and it one quickly realizes that the need to make big plays is now multiplied by 1000.
Canadian draftees don’t have the ratio hanging over their head but are by no means sitting pretty. The ones lucky enough to be drafted higher always have to go through the “BIIIIG MONNEEY” calls and the false insinuation that they are the chosen ones.
It probably does a guy good to go through some sort of ribbing though. In the morning, the pads get thrown on, and the competition gets fierce. It’s probably calming to feel like you fit in for the time being.
Realistically, there are tons of different scenarios that we won’t get into at this time. Some know that the first team meeting signals the start of the last season they’ll ever be a part of. Others know that they may not make it out of camp without putting together an incredible campaign. Some situations are laced with opportunity, others aren't. It's what you signed up for.
But that’s the greatest part about the start of training camp and the prospects of being a professional athlete in general.
The winding roads that you get to travel are full of both adverse moments and remarkable benchmarks.
The highs and lows of competition are as addicting as heroine. You spend months pushing your body to the limits in order to be ready for Day 1, and the first official team meeting is the signal that you’ve arrived. You’ve got a ton of emotion that you’re bringing with you...But at least you’re there...on the doorstep of being able to do what you were born to do…COMPETE…FINALLY.
We'll be covering the Riders camp all week...Don't be afraid to ask all the questions that come to mind. We'll answer them as we go along.