From the first day she walked on the field Taylor MacIntyre felt welcomed at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp, but it became really special when the players started referring to her as Coach T.
“It just shows that they really respect and support what I’m doing and I love having the opportunity of coaching them,” said MacIntyre, one of the nine participants in the Women in Football Program presented by KPMG at this year’s CFL training camps.
MacIntyre is a receivers coach with McMaster Marauders in U SPORTS. During her time with the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Bombers, she’s working with receivers coach Kevin Bourgoin and helping on special teams.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” said the 31-year-old who was born in St. Thomas, Ont. “I’m really grateful for this opportunity.
“I actually received a message on social media from a couple of the players just welcoming me to the group and saying they are looking forward to working with me.”
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MacIntyre came to the Bombers camp having coached at the college and high school level, but the opportunity to learn from head coach Mike O’Shea and his staff had her feeling “a mix of nervous and excited.”
“I knew I’d have to work harder than I’ve ever worked before,” she said. “That’s why I’m here, just to soak up every experience.”
The flow and pace of a professional training camp is similar to what MacIntrye has experienced at McMaster. What’s she’s found most interesting is some “small details” which will make her a better coach.
“The small details is what separates the great teams from the other teams,” she said. “Those small details add up to make a huge difference from an efficiency standpoint, from a skill standpoint.”
For example, she noticed when Buck Pierce, Winnipeg’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, wants to make an important point, he says it twice.
“People learn in different ways, so it helps to say it twice,” said MacIntyre.
She also has better understands the importance of explaining to a player why they are being asked to do something.
“One thing I’ve learned here is really talk to players, share the vision that you have for them, help them understand why we’re asking them to do this certain route, why we’re asking them to make this block,” said MacIntyre. “Sharing that piece is hugely important.
“At McMaster, we have very coachable student athletes. If you ask them to do something, they do it. At this level (players) have seen so many systems, they want to know why.”
The Winnipeg roster is stocked with players who have experience in the CFL, NCAA and NFL. MacIntyre said they have no problem listening to any coach, if that person is offering them something new and useful.
“If you can help a player be better, or learn something new that makes them better, they’re going to listen,” she said. “Players want to be coached up, so it doesn’t matter if (the coach) is male, female or however they identify or represent themselves. Players just want to be coached.”
During one practice MacIntyre worked with one of the Bomber veterans on the proper technique of switching arms for carrying the ball after a catch.
“I kind of took him aside and showed him how to do it,” she said. “He’s been in the league I don’t know how many years but the fact I’m able to help him and explain the why being what I’m suggesting, I was able to connect with him.
“I don’t think he saw me as a female coach; it was just a coach helping him be better.”
Coaching runs in MacIntyre’s blood. Her father his entering his 35th year as head coach of the high school team in St. Thomas.
MacIntyre is a trailblazer in her own right. She was a receiver and backup quarterback in high school. She went on to be the team’s receiving coach and has held positions with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Special Olympics.
When her time with the Bombers ends she will return to McMaster and also coach with the Team Ontario U-18 women’s tackle program.
MacIntyre is looking for two takeaways from the Winnipeg training camp.
“I’m looking to increase my coaching knowledge, the fundamentals of coaching on and off the field,” she said. “I really want to get all those nuances and small details down and just learn from some of the best.
“On the other side, I have the goal that I want to show girls and women in Canada they can play football and coach football at a high level. I think representation in sport is very important. To give a girl growing up the opportunity to see someone in this position is extremely valuable. That’s something I didn’t have growing up.”
MacIntyre appreciates the experience being offered by the CFL and the Blue Bombers.
“I’m extremely grateful to coach O’Shea and the entire Winnipeg Blue Bombers organization just to be able to learn the winning ways here in in Winnipeg and to learn from some of the best coaches in North America,” she said.
MacIntyre is encouraged there are currently 12 female coaches on NFL teams and that the BC Lions have Tanya Walter as defensive assistant.
“There are so many different things that female coaches can offer to a program,” she said. “We’ve had to work hard to get to this point to prove ourselves and show that we belong.
“I hope we’re not too far away. I definitely see that we’re heading in the right direction. For me personally, I’ll just keep working hard and keep learning something new every day and hopefully have more opportunities in the future.”