10 Questions with (Head Coach) Darcy Park

We had a few minutes to sit down with Wildcats Head Coach Darcy Park before the winter workout at the Commonwealth Field House… Here’s a few of his comments on coaching, the team, and what to expect for the 2013 season!

How did you get into coaching?

As soon as I wasn’t playing anymore, I had to do it. I was just going to coach for a couple of years to get the bug out of my system but I fell in love with coaching right away. It’s another way to be around the guys and get back into the game. Most of the things I do in my life are related in one way or another to Football – so that’s obviously why I want to be back and with the kids and the rewards of coaching are just tough to give up.

How do you motivate your athletes?

I think the biggest thing is finding athletes who are motivated themselves. Juniors are usually a great level for that because you have a lot of guys who want to get to the next level whether that be CIS or to the CFL. You’ve got to find those guys who are motivated and who want to do the work. We are not a CIS or high school program where we get to see the kids every day so a lot of it is making sure we’re setting expectations on the kids. We’re always making sure that they’re following up and trying to get the most out of them.

What is something that you’ve learned through coaching that you’ve taking forward with you into your career?

I think the biggest thing is just controlling what you can control. A lot of time you can get chasing after and biting off more than you can chew. I think one of the things I’ve really learned, even just in the three years as a head coach, is to delegate and let people help you. Just take care of the little things and eventually you do enough of the little things that the big things take care of themselves.

What is one of your favourite moments as a coach?

Being involved in two conference championships and going onto the national finals twice. Those are nice – that’s what you’re always trying to do. I think the biggest thing is when you get an athlete who no one really knows about and you can develop them – take them from an unknown commodity to a league all-star, someone who CIS programs covet. That’s the biggest reward is when you can take those kids and work them and see them improve all the way through.

What are your expectations of the upcoming season?

We go into every season expecting to be competing for a National Final and this year is no different. We’ve put together two years of staff and we’re in a position where we have a lot of returning guys who understand the expectations we’re going to put on them. It’s about working and being a team and we [the coaching staff] think we’re going to bring in the right guys – guys who want to compete and I think that’s going to lead to the finals.

How is the team preparing for the upcoming season?

They’re lucky – there are so many great facilities and training areas for them to go to in terms of developing their skills; football specific now. Those things didn’t exist 10 years ago, so our guys are using them and we have this great facility here at Commonwealth that we’ve never been able to use before. We’ve already had 5 workouts, we’re going to have 11 by the time the snow is melted off the grass and that’s something we’ve never been able to do. In terms of having our system in place, we’re going to be ahead when we head out for spring camp and in terms of new guys to our program, they’re going to understand what our expectations are. We think that is going to build a better team and allow us to hit the ground running once the season starts.

What are you, as the coach, most excited about this season?

This is fun – the training, but ultimately it’s about when you get to start preparing for games, when they matter. And just being able to work through that process… You never know what it’s going to do – you can plan, but you never know how the season is going to go and it’s over so fast. I mean the anticipation to get to the season is exciting and once the season is there, it just goes in the blink of an eye.

What are you watching for in the players during the off season training?

The biggest thing we’re doing is trying to watch for improvement. We’re doing our testing and seeing where they started at. We want to see the guys who are improving. We have a model that best players play but we are want to see guys who are continually trying to get better and better. That’s what we’re looking for. When a coach is teaching a technique we ask is that player going to try the technique and does he have the confidence to go and do it? Those are all the things that you can learn here. You can see how a player reacts to a bad play or how a player reacts to maybe getting yelled at or disciplined. Those are things that as a coach we can go back and know what we have to watch for. How are we going to get the most out of each player.

Do you have a motto or a tagline that you use for the Wildcats?

We like to think that no one works harder than us. And the other one is “We Will Succeed Through Commitment and Hard Work”. That’s very simple and our coaches put a lot of work in, we have a great executive who put a lot of work in and then ultimately that trickles down to our players who we expect to work hard.

Any advice for anyone who wants to try out for the Wildcats?

The biggest thing is to come with an open mind and learn and listen to the coaches. Understand that we have had people from all different kinds of backgrounds and all different types of experience in the game of football and lots of times it’s turned out good. The biggest thing is don’t cut yourself and don’t ever let yourself go by stop going. If there’s not an opportunity to make the team this year, there may be somewhere down the road. But don’t push yourself out the door… It’s the easiest thing. If guys give up on themselves too quickly it’s kind of sad because there is lots of potential and sometimes it just takes longer.

Final Comments

We’re just really excited. The veteran group of coaches is really the biggest thing that we have. We are relying on them. We tend to have a young team but our coaching staff has been together for over a decade – relying on these guys makes it kind of easy for me to stand around a get a lot of credit for not doing very much [laughs]