The adjustment from playing to coaching: Matt Connell

Something a little bit different will be starting here. This is the first of (I hope) several installments of CIS players who went on to become coaches. This will start off with football, but should go on to include other sports as well.

The first subject is Matt Connell who was a record-breaking quarterback and now offensive coordinator with the McGill Redmen.

A lot of players have gone from players to coaches in the CIS. The adjustment is a difficult one to grasp, as there are significant differences.

For Matt Connell, there was another adjustment to make: going from teammate and friend to coach.

Connell was a quarterback with the McGill Redmen and is now in his second season as coach. His first season was as quarterbacks coach before adding the title of offensive coordinator this season. He says that there are advantages and disadvantages of coaching former teammates.

“I know them really well,” he said. “So I an reach them better and they know that they can approach me because they know me. It’s tough when you get frustrated with them or when they aren’t playing well. You have to tell them they didn’t do this or that well and that’s why they aren’t playing. It’s really hard when you’re making depth charts.”

“Coaching is a lot more in depth in every aspect,” he said. “As coordinator you have to talk to position coaches to know what is going on and you have to watch a lot more tape. You only have a few seconds to make the call, so you have to be prepared for any situation. As quarterback, you weren’t making all of the decisions with play calls.”

Connell also had to adjust from playing to coaching in a short period of time. He was on the field before games, but didn’t have equipment on. “You have to take yourself away from it,” he said. “You want to be out there, you want to show players to kind of say ‘do it like this’”

He, unlike say, Benoit Groulx the offensive coordinator of Bishop’s, had an easier transition because he went from the system he was playing in to coaching it. He not only knowing how things worked with the school and program but also knowing the teams they were going to be playing against helped the adjustment.

Connell had made a point to coach while still playing. He actually served as a player-coach with the Cannes Iron Mask a Division 1 pro team in France. He was also the head coach of the Montreal Aces youth football program and was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for five high school all-star games in Montreal.

“I’ve always been involved with coaching any way I could,” he said. “I knew if I couldn’t keep playing, I wanted to be a coach.”
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