Redblacks’ head coach Paul LaPolice credits improved grassroots coaching for rise in Canadian talent

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant /

While some in the CFL are openly questioning whether there is enough quality homegrown talent at the grassroots level, a rising number of Canadian prospects are making the jump to the NCAA and NFL every year.

In the opinion of Ottawa Redblacks’ head coach Paul LaPolice, that new wave of Canadian talent is a credit to the improvement in minor football coaching that he’s witnessed since he came north over 20 years ago.

“The best thing happening in Ottawa and across the country, and you see it with guys like [John Metchie III] for Alabama, all these guys who are playing now in major colleges that are Canadian and get the opportunity, it’s because they’ve been coached very well,” LaPolice said in an interview on TSN 1200’s The Drive.

“I believe the grassroots coaches and the youth coaches are just so much better and there’s so much more volume for them to learn so they can be good teachers. It’s a tribute to them and we just want to continue to help them in any way, shape, or form.”

The Redblacks and the OSEG Foundation were busy backing up that commitment on the weekend, hosting 130 local coaches across all levels of football for a clinic put on by LaPolice and his staff.

LaPolice knows the value of those types of events first hand. As a young coach, he made the trek to many similar clinics in the United States, attempting to glean a new piece of information from each one and making valuable connections.

That hasn’t always been as accessible for Canadian coaches, but the times are slowly changing thanks to new technology. The Redblacks hope to play a small part in providing top level coaching education, though LaPolice notes that the benefits don’t simply flow from the top down.

“Just because we’re on television doesn’t mean that [we’re superior.] It’s crucial that we have great youth coaches and I’ve learned as much stuff from university sports coaches or high school coaches as I have from other coaches,” he insisted.

“I just like the opportunity to go teach some kids football. My young son, he’s part of the Bell Warriors. Having the opportunity to hopefully have some of the coaches there take some things back and help instruct my kid [is important.]”

On a less personal note, the health of the coaching profession in Canada is vitally important for the CFL as a whole. While some changes to the ratio may be on the horizon, homegrown talent will always be a foundational part of the league and it is youth coaches that hold the fate of it in their hands.

“They can develop the next Andrew Harris or the next Brad Sinopoli, the next great players that will play in our league,” LaPolice stressed. “We think it’s important as a Redblacks organization and foundation to make sure we give back and support youth football as much as we can.”