Jayson Bates wanted to play football this year.
After graduating form the Chilliwack Huskers following last season, the Kelowna kid still had the urge to strap on the pads and hit someone.
But it didn’t work out.
Two CIS programs showed interest, but eventually declined to bring him on board. He could have, in theory, played in a local men’s league or even gone to Europe.
But sometimes, the trick is knowing when to hang ‘em up.
“It sucks, and I admit watching last weekend’s exhibition game, it kind of sucked not being able to go on the field,” Bates said. “But everyone’s got to hang ‘em up eventually, and it was my time.”
When it’s over, it’s nice to have a fallback plan.
On Tuesday evening, Bates was at Exhibition Stadium for a Huskers practice, as a coach. If you can’t be in the game as a player, it’s the next best thing.
“The intensity is definitely not there as a coach,” Bates said, comparing the two. “You’ve got to calm yourself down. It would be nice to hit somebody again, but I totally understand that I can’t.”
He says that with a straight face, but you can almost see it now — Bates on Youtube, leaping out from the sidelines to tackle a Westshore Rebels kick returner.
The biggest test for a player turning coach is this. You may be able to play the game, but can you teach it?
It is often said that great players make lousy coaches, and lousy players make great coaches.
Bates was far from lousy, but is he able to communicate what he knows to the next generation?
“I started playing football when I was 12 or 13 years old, and I was once that player that had to be coached in everything,” Bates said. “And when I got here, I had some great coaches and I was able to step back and see how they approached the job.”
One thing he learned is that approaches must be tailored to individual players.
“Some guys you can yell at and some guys you have be calm, cool and collected with,” he said. “I did not mind being yelled at. Kick me in the ass? Great. Now I know what I have to do. A guy like Levi Weaver wasn’t a loud, in-your-face player. You’d yell at him and he’d take it, but if you told him quietly or subtly hinted, that was the better approach.”
Bates learned that lesson well when the coaches demoted Weaver to the second-team defence one week.
“They didn’t tell him anything. They just put him down to team two, and he had the best practice week of his life,” Bates recalled. “It was the best week of Levi I’ve ever seen. Being captain the last couple years helped me learn how to gauge different people.”
Current Langley Rams head coach Jeff Alamolhoda was Bates’ defensive coordinator for a couple years in Chilliwack.
From ‘Hoda,’ Bates learned the vale of study and preparation.
When he wasn’t on the field, Alamolhoda was known for poring over game videos, dissecting his team and other teams to identify strengths and weaknesses.
As a player, Bates was handed a playbook and told where to go and what to do on the field.
Now, he’s involved in the strategy and enjoying it.
“Game film used to be watching me, finding my mistakes and figuring out what I could do better,” he said. “It’s different because I’m not getting yelled at anymore. It used to be, this is my job and as long as I do my job, it’s fine. Now it’s a lot broader. I have to think about all 12 guys on the field and what they’re doing wrong and right.”
Bates talks about everything with such enthusiasm that you can almost believe he’s accepted that his playing days are done.
“I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with it, and even my family and my girlfriend have been talking about the men’s league and Europe,” Bates said. “But in the immediate future, I think I have to get school started (he’s taking kinesiology courses at UFV). Apparently you can never be too old for men’s league, so we’ll see what happens in the future.”
Bates will be on the sidelines Saturday as the Huskers host Victoria’s Westshore Rebels in the team’s home opener. Kick is at 2 p.m.