A fact of life in the CFL means that regularly paranoid head coaches have to deal with the general public attending their practices. That’s especially true in Saskatchewan where on any given day there could be a few hundred people out to watch their beloved team practice (we’re talking about practice?!).
In years gone by, this wasn’t a big deal. Coaches had to worry more about their information getting out through newspapers and other media but the fans didn’t really have much of a way to share information they saw at practice with the world. Then came the internet, message boards and social media. New Riders bench boss Chris Jones is taking a different approach than the previous coaching staff to keep what happens at practice at practice.
He sat down with the fans on Sunday morning as the team practiced for the first time since the end of training camp and their bye week asking them to keep what they saw to themselves.
Chris Jones is addressing the Rider faithful. He says in Edm they used what fans posted online to help them. pic.twitter.com/LDKwrBQm4q
— Arielle Zerr (@arielle_zerr) June 26, 2016
When it comes to coaching in Saskatchewan, keeping things secret takes extra effort because the Riders see one of, if not the largest practice attendance numbers in the league.
Jones’ predecessor, Corey Chamblin learned that lesson quickly during his first season as the team’s head coach in 2012. Chamblin wrote a letter to the fans telling them practices would be closed from now on. Chamblin eventually folded to some pressure from inside and outside of the organization and opened up a day a week the fans (walk through had to be open by league rules), but most of that season only the media was allowed through the gates at Mosaic Stadium for practice. That decision basically prompted the league’s new rule allowing teams to close one practice a week. Chamblin used that rule throughout the 2014 and 2015 seasons keeping fans and media out once a week. Though, it didn’t really help him too much.
During his time in Edmonton, Jones rarely closed a practice. It appears he’s hoping not to here either. Now, it’s up to the fans if they want to keep coming to every practice or not. From a fans perspective, they shouldn’t be so quick to share information that could be harmful to the team since they have a vested interest in how the team performs every week. The media should be free to report on whatever they see as that is their job to share information and create interesting content.
Jones is right, teams across the league, including the Riders, regularly comb through media reports, message boards and social media for any kind of information they think can give them an edge. At this point, most of that information is more or less just injury reports and who is playing and where. Trick plays, formations and that kind of thing rarely gets mentioned anymore.
That being said, as helpful as that kind of information can be, in order to win a team needs to execute the right plays at the right time and no amount of information can help you do that.