Mentor coach series – Part 1: Learning curve accelerated for Beattie
Photo: USA Football
When Gordon Beattie, currently a high school football coach at Citadel in Halifax, was initially invited to the 2016 International Bowl in Arlington, Texas, it was to learn from Canada’s U19 national team as they prepared for their January 31 contest against a U.S. national team at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“I think his plan originally was to come here and just learn, follow, look around, listen, and sit in the meetings,” said Junior National Team offensive coordinator, Joe D’Amore.
The game plan was audibled following a position coach vacancy at running back. The apprentice coach, who previously served as a positon coach, alongside coordinator then head coach, Steve Sumarah for 11 seasons at St. Mary’s University including two victories in five trips to the Vanier Cup, was asked to fill the vacancy in Texas.
“Gord came in and we were like by the way, you’re going to coach a position,” added D’Amore. “I think that was maybe tough for some people, but he embraced it, did a great job with it and he was prepared. He came in every day with practice drills and everything like that.”
With his experience, D’Amore knew Beattie could handle the tough assignment and concentrated his mentoring efforts on helping the new addition transition to the international game.
“The thing about Gord is he’s been coaching a heck of a lot longer than I have,” Canada’s offensive coordinator said. “As far as the mentoring aspect, I think it was more about getting him acclimated to this type of tournament. We come here and we’re playing a different game with the American rules.”
Part of the challenge for D’Amore was getting the coaching staff, including his newest addition, on the same page in preparation for their showdown with the U.S. National Team.
“When you bring coaches together that don’t run the same scheme, you have that adjustment period where you have to learn to work together. It takes some time to understand what everyone’s role is in terms of responsibilities for things like substitutions with the running backs and understanding what we’re trying to do as an offensive group.”
Even as a veteran coach, Beattie understood his International Bowl experience was another opportunity to learn and he took full advantage of it. One of his biggest takeaways was how to bring players from across the country together in a short period of time.
“You’re bringing together kids from across the country so the first thing that I learnt was that you’ve got to get the players together and totally immerse them in the experience,” Beattie said. “The week of training camp and in the hotel was fantastic for team building.”
The way in which concepts and game plans are implemented is also critical to a team’s success in a tournament style competition.
“Picking up and keeping things simple, basic and then allowing the kids to go out and perform is important. Sometimes there’s a tendency to want to over-coach and do too much. I think these guys had a happy medium of five days of practices to get ready for one game.”
The opportunity was also attractive to the Halifax coach as it gave him an opportunity to work with some of Canada’s top young football players.
“You get to work with some fantastic athletes,” Beattie said. “They are good kids and they really want to learn. They’re just like a sponge, soaking in everything you want to give.”
Being able to pick-up and share ideas with coaches from across Canada was another benefit of Gord’s mentorship experience.
“I’ve coached high school the past few years, but prior to that I was a CIS coach myself. Going into the room and sharing with these guys was a very interesting dynamic because they are sharing with you as a peer. Sometimes when you go into a room with some of the CIS guys, you can feel a bit overwhelmed, but for me, it was a nice opportunity to be able to talk to guys about football.”
“That’s the whole thing around coaching that most coaches don’t get is that it’s very important to collaborate and share.”
Beattie also learned how to transition to the international game which is based on the NCAA rulebook.
“I learned some interesting things about pass game, certainly adapting to the American rules was huge,” Beattie continued. “Certain aspects of the run game, pass game, some behind the scenes organization and stuff.”
“I also got to learn a little bit more about using certain forms of video editing equipment. We use Hudl with my team and [at the International Bowl] I learned a little bit more about what Hudl could do. Our video person did a fantastic job – I’m going to take back some of the things he does to help my team in Nova Scotia.”
D’Amore has glowing reports of his mentor coach’s performance.
“I think he did a great job!” D’Amore said of his mentoring coach. “For someone that had to come in and wasn’t really sure of what his responsibility role was here, I think he did a great job. Our running backs were prepared.”
The experience, which serves as Beattie’s introduction to international football, has sparked a key interest in becoming more involved at the national team or national championship level.
“Getting involved with the national program is something I’m interested in for sure,” the Citadel coach said.
With the Texas experience under his belt, a return to the world stage in the future could re-unite Beattie with another former St. Mary’s coach, in future Junior National Team head coach, Steve Sumarah.
This post is also available in: French