Home Team

BEYOND THE SIDE­LINES WITH LAURIER FOOT­BALL’S MICHAEL FAULDS CANADA’S TOP UNIVER­SITY COACH

Grand Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - BY PHIL AN­DREWS

In the house­hold of Canada’s best univer­sity foot­ball head coach, there are two sea­sons.

“In-sea­son” is the shorter of these – at least ac­cord­ing to the num­ber of cal­en­dar days it takes up. It’s the pe­riod that sees Michael Faulds present far less fre­quently as house-chef, hus­band for his wife, Stacey, and dot­ing dad to his young chil­dren – Chloe, 3, and Lu­cas, born on Jan. 1.

“There’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent sides to my year,” says Faulds, 33, head foot­ball coach of Wil­frid Laurier Univer­sity’s Golden Hawks

and the most re­cent win­ner of the Frank Tindall Tro­phy for Cana­dian univer­sity foot­ball coach of the year.

Stand­ing in a cor­ner of the family’s kitchen, on an “off-sea­son” Satur­day morn­ing, Faulds speaks mat­ter-of-factly of the re­mark­able “in-sea­son” work-day hours he of­ten tack­les. They tend to see him ar­rive at the of­fice at about 4 a.m. and roll home around 10 p.m. He logs these “ex­tremely long days” from his team’s Au­gust train­ing camp until its fi­nal game. In good years, such as last year, when his team won the On­tario cham­pi­onship, the fi­nal game is played in Novem­ber.

“If it’s 5:30 or 6 a.m., that’s where I’ve had a good sleep. But there have been many oc­ca­sions where it’s 1:30 or 2 a.m. and I’m into the of­fice then,” Faulds says.

That said, head­ing into the of­fice is not con­sid­ered go­ing to work.

“I very rarely ever wake up to an alarm.... I’ll just wake up with an ex­cite­ment about what I have to ac­com­plish that day. So, ‘in-sea­son,’ that could be game plan­ning. That could be script­ing plays. That could be book­ing buses for an away-game at Car­leton (Univer­sity), in Ot­tawa. That

could be call­ing to make meal plans for the play­ers. It could be any num­ber of things – alumni re­la­tions, game-day mar­ket­ing. So there are many dif­fer­ent hats you wear as a head foot­ball coach in Canada. And I also en­joy all those hats I have to wear.”

Faulds says he squeezes in family time while “in-sea­son.” Iron­i­cally, one place that hap­pens is on game days at the Golden Hawks’ sta­dium – with a few caveats.

Stacey is no stranger to univer­sity foot­ball games. She was even a West­ern Univer­sity cheer­leader back when she struck up a re­la­tion­ship with the Mus­tangs’ star quar­ter­back of the day – whom she later mar­ried.

“We were friends through friends,” says Stacey, 33. “I was pretty against ever want­ing to date Michael be­cause of that cliché: cheer­leader-foot­ball player. But he kind of stole my heart and it went from there.”

Stacey has con­tin­ued go­ing to foot­ball fields to cheer on “Michael,” even as he’s be­come “Coach Faulds.” Stacey and Chloe were reg­u­lar parts of the coach’s lo­cal game days last year – and Lu­cas is to be a part of that this sea­son. But while the Faulds family flock gath­ers to watch the Golden Hawks’ field boss work, they don’t in­ter­act with him “ever” be­fore the game – or dur­ing it, says Stacey. Post-game re­unions, how­ever, are prized.

“Other times of the year is when I re­ally get my family fix, and in the sum­mer there is a ton of time for that, which is great, in the lead-up to the sea­son,” Faulds says. The family also cher­ishes trav­el­ling. Stacey, an events man­ager for a Lon­don­based mar­ket­ing-sup­port busi­ness, says they work to have a va­ca­tion to a hot des­ti­na­tion each year and also an an­nual trip that of­fers “ad­ven­ture.” Cor­re­spond­ingly, their pass­ports fea­ture stamps for such lo­cales as Ja­maica, Mexico, Chile and Europe – not to men­tion sev­eral short get­aways to places such as Boston, New York and Chicago.

Stacey also trav­els fre­quently for work – a gig that has seen her en­gaged in such marquee events and mar­ket­ing func­tions as a past Su­per Bowl and NBA All-Star Game.

The Fauld­ses say they couldn’t swing her work-travel and his “in-sea­son” sched­ule with­out their par­ents help­ing out on do­mes­tic du­ties. The family re­sides about equal dis­tances from Michael’s folks, in Eden Mills just east of Guelph, and from Stacey’s mother and fa­ther, in London.

“We get a lot of help from our sup­port sys­tem,” says Stacey.

They also savour re­treat­ing to a spe­cial spot of their home prop­erty – their wide, for­est-en­cir­cled rear yard.

“The big­gest thing for us is the back­yard. We love be­ing out­doors and just hav­ing a for­est, look­ing at the green­ery,” says Stacey.

Their home is at the end of a quiet cul-de- sac in the West Lau­ren­tian area of Kitch­ener and the prop­erty backs onto a sprawl­ing con­ser­va­tion space. Faulds says a lot of peo­ple won­der why he doesn’t live closer to the Laurier cam­pus. But he says the 15-minute com­mute is good for him. The drive of­fers him think­ing time – as do five­and 10-kilo­me­tre runs he makes cer­tain to get in reg­u­larly. And, he says, the length of the drive to Laurier also makes it less tempt­ing to sneak into work – par­tic­u­larly “on a family day.”

It is clear Faulds can quickly lose him­self in pon­der­ing how to keep build­ing mo­men­tum sur­round­ing the Laurier foot­ball pro­gram. And time scram­bles by when he does. Even in “off-sea­son.”

He says the mem­bers of his coach­ing staff some­times think he’s “crazy” for things he jumps into at work. One such in­stance was two years ago when Faulds solo-shov­elled the team’s snow-glaciered prac­tice field – in Fe­bru­ary – so the team would not have to can­cel its reg­u­lar spring camp in March.

“And my play­ers think I’m crazy too – like we’ll prac­tice in bliz­zards. We’ll prac­tice when it’s a mon­soon com­ing down of rain. Just not hav­ing any ex­cuses is big for me and not hav­ing any re­grets. So what I don’t want is for some­thing bad to go and hap­pen that fol­low­ing sea­son and for me to say, ‘Well, if we didn’t have to can­cel all those prac­tices, then, maybe, we could have done this or that.’”

Faulds says he tries to teach his coaches and play­ers to live a re­gret-free life by mak­ing “good de­ci­sions” and find­ing ways to solve chal­leng­ing prob­lems.

Faulds says he also be­lieves in set­ting struc­tures that main­tain ac­count­abil­ity for

him and for the team – with no “cut­ting corners.”

Some of these struc­tures come home too – so he’s ac­count­able and avail­able as “Daddy” and hus­band Michael and tak­ing a break from be­ing Coach Faulds. For ex­am­ple, there are rules for his at-home cell­phone use.

“No phones at the din­ner ta­ble,” says Stacey, of­fer­ing one ex­am­ple. “And, he’s good at that.”

Faulds says it’s not keep­ing up with the con­sid­er­able vol­ume of work email that sees him need­ing forced breaks from his smart­phone. Rather, he says, the re­cruit­ing end of what he does obliges him to be vig­or­ously en­gaged in so­cial me­dia and tex­ting to woo and re­late to po­ten­tial fu­ture play­ers.

“When we try to con­vince 17-, 18-year- olds to come to Laurier, you have to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with them. So, even in my short time in coach­ing, it used to be, you know, you call the family house and you make a call (at the house.) No longer will 17-, 18-year-olds re­spond to that.”

Sur­vey­ing tweets from @MichaelFaulds pro­vides ev­i­dence he’s flu­ent in the ways and mes­sag­ing of 2017 re­cruit­ing.

Hav­ing the con­stant con­nec­tion to in­di­vid­u­als in the 17-to-23 age range that his job re­quires keeps him young “phys­i­cally and men­tally,” Faulds says.

Not that he’s ever find­ing him­self feel­ing old.

“Not yet,” he says. “But let’s see where I am af­ter my kids get a few years older.”

And, af­ter a run of “in-sea­sons” that stretch into Novem­bers, if Faulds has his way.

TOP: Laurier foot­ball coach Michael Faulds talks to his play­ers dur­ing a prac­tice at Univer­sity Sta­dium.

LEFT: West­ern quar­ter­back Michael Faulds is tack­led in 2005 dur­ing a loss to the team he now leads.

RIGHT: A proven win­ner, Michael Faulds helped hoist the On­tario cham­pi­onship Yates Cup twice as a West­ern quar­ter­back. He did it again last fall as coach of the Laurier Golden Hawks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.