Just three seasons ago, the Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team was 1-7 with a rookie head coach and now they are champions poised to maintain the progress of their program and continue to compete at the national stage with some of the biggest schools in the country.
This turnaround is largely due to having head coach Michael Faulds at the helm, who, alongside the team, has shown astronomical progress.
“I don’t just try to blow smoke; we really do work harder than every other team,” said Faulds.
“We [practiced] all the way up until the Vanier cup. I know most teams don’t do that. The other thing we do is we are allowed 20 out of season practices. We use each and every single one of the 20. I know a lot of teams use 15 or 16 of them.”
Faulds also stressed the importance of veteran leadership. However, on his team that, presence is something special.
“You’ve got a good mix of senior leadership players who were 1-7 and have that tenacity. They’ve gone through adversity and then you add a lot of the talent from the next recruiting classes with the hard work and that’s kind of the reason for the turn around,” Faulds said.
Having a strong group of older players to usher in the new era is crucial. They have seen the team at a low point and pass on the reins to younger players with an alternate perspective.
On Faulds’ team every player is equally accountable.
“[It came down to] really changing that culture and making everyone accountable in terms of everyone had to be at workouts. So whether you were a Dillion Campbell … or you’re a scout team player, your football experience is the exact same; same amount of workouts, same amount of commitments, in terms of study hall, same amount of practices. And I think that has brought our locker-room a lot closer,” Faulds said.
Faulds’ ability to turn around the team and win the Yates Cup for the first time since 2005 are the reasons he was presented with the coach of the year award.
“It’s a reward for all of the hard work and I’ve mentioned it many times: it’s truly the whole staff award. I’m just one of 12-15 who, every day, are working tirelessly to get our players to understand the system, to understand the culture, the hard work and what it’s going to take to win football games,” Faulds said.
The awards are a nice addition, but they are not what Faulds and the program are after.
“At training camp, I told the guys that we’re going to all throw out our egos and just try to win football games,” he said.
He credits the team for adhering to what he addressed at training camp and to put aside any personal gain and play as a unit.
The hallmark of good coaching is the ability to adapt. Players depart, or get hurt and adjustments have to be made.
This happened when the team had to replace one of the most successful players in school history: Dillon Campbell.
“I kept telling people, obviously Dillon was a very special individual and he did a lot in particular when our o-line was young, but the great thing about where we were coming into this year is that I knew it was going to be more of a running back high committee,” Faulds said.
Three years ago, this team was 1-7 and now, they have finished the 2016 season with a Yates Cup win under their belt. Changing a culture, a system and a team in that short of a period is no simple task, but Faulds did it.
“Every year, a team wins the Yates Cup, but not every year does a team win the Yates Cup when they were 1-7 just three seasons ago,” Faulds said.
“That’s what makes it more special and in particular, our team is made up of a lot of guys who were a part of that one [win] in [that] season, so a great thing for me and the rest of the coaching staff was seeing those guys on stage, lifting the Yates Cup, knowing that they had worked so hard and so tirelessly since the 2013 season.”