Pat Gregory, in his first season as head coach of the John Abbott Islanders, is pleased so far with the progress of his CEGEP football team.
Have you been able to create a buzz around the team?
Gregory: Absolutely. I feel it in the school. I think it’s out there in the football world. I’m not naïve, we won’t go 7-2 this year, but that doesn’t take away from what’s going on. I’ve got a great coaching staff. I love the people who surround our program. We’re doing the right things and I know we’re going to be rewarded for it. We want to win yesterday.
Have you emphasized the importance of academics to your players?
Gregory: The first thing I told them, and I told the same thing to people here at Abbott, is that I expect every single one of them to leave here, to graduate from CEGEP, in good academic standing. That’s the first message. The other thing is that at CEGEP, we have amazing resources and support for the athletes and the general students. There is stuff built in here that is better than I saw at university. The whole point of them being in CEGEP is to learn and prepare for what’s coming next.
How did recruiting go at the local level?
Gregory: It’s gone well. We have about 11 to 13 North Shore football grads, a handful from Lakeshore and a few from StLazare. It’s a good base, but it has to keep growing. We didn’t really start till late January, but we’ve made a lot of inroads.
What’s the most enjoyable part of coaching CEGEP football?
Gregory: The energy I get from the coaching staff is incredible. It makes my day every day. And the young men I coach have been awesome. They come out and work hard every day. That’s been the case everywhere I’ve coached. If you frame it the right way for young men, they’ll want to do it the right way.
How has the team performed?
Gregory: We’ve done pretty well, but we can still get better. Our players are learning to compete at this level. For example, Quad Johnson started the last two games at quarterback. He’s a first-year kid, 17 years old. He passed for three touchdowns his first weekend and two more again last weekend. So he’s a skilled, talented football player. He’s a stud quarterback. But he’s a guy who had to sit because Mario Porraca was our starter. But when Mario went down with an injury, he got his opportunity. But there’s nothing wrong with creating that type of (internal) competition. I’m proud of that. That’s not something I want to apologize for. We talk about it a lot. Go out and create an environment that’s competitive, and the guys will learn to grow through that.
WITH THE COACH
With the Coach is a weekly series featuring a conversation with a local coach.
Coach: Pat Gregory, 44-year-old Pointe-Claire resident and John Abbott football coach
Team: John Abbott Islanders
Years coached: 21
Playing experience: Bishop’s University
Best coaching tip: Be willing to learn