Gregory Coates-Cameron is still relatively new to coaching — in an official capacity, at least — but it doesn’t take long to recognize that he’s a coach at heart.
“Coaching any sport, really is teaching,” he said as he explained what’s drawn him into this demanding and sometimes difficult-to-break-into profession.
An offensive assistant coach with the Guelph Gryphons, Coates-Cameron has spent training camp with the Ottawa REDBLACKS as a part of the Diversity In Football Program, presented by Securian Canada. At just 23 years old, he understands the value of the opportunity to spend this kind of time with CFL coaches at this point in his burgeoning career. For the last few weeks, that teacher at heart has shifted to student mode and tried to absorb everything around him.
“I have to be the youngest person to ever do this program and maybe one of the youngest people ever to have an opportunity to coach in the CFL,” he said. A philosophy major that’s working toward finishing his undergraduate degree at Guelph, he started working under Gryphons head coach Ryan Sheahan in July of 2022.
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Coates-Cameron has grown up around the game. His father, Dwayne Cameron, is the Calgary Stampeders’ defensive backs coach and CFL Draft coordinator. While he fell head-first in love with the game as a kid, Coates-Cameron said that even then it was on the coaching side more so than the playing side.
“For the last 10 years of my life, coaching or working in personnel was the only thing I saw myself doing in life in pro or college football,” he said, adding that the exposure to the game and coaching he got through his father helped fuel that fire.
“I’ve had a unique opportunity to go almost anywhere he was able to go for the most part and seeing this life first-hand. I knew there was nothing else I could imagine myself doing and my father is an idol of mine. I want to continue his legacy and continue on I guess you could say the family business, if you will.”
Still, getting this direct exposure to coaching at the pro level has been an adjustment for him thats’ loaded him up with things to take back to the Gryphons this year.
“The experience has been great and very informative and influential in my career going forward,” Coates-Cameron said.
“It’s illuminated some of the strengths that I know I have now and illuminated some of the aspects of myself as a coach and someone that wants to work in pro football that I need to grow in.
“I couldn’t have asked fro a better staff, a more accommodating staff. The organization and everyone in it, from (general manager) Shawn Burke, coach (Bob) Dyce, everyone I’ve worked with has been first class, top notch.”
In many ways, Coates-Cameron said he felt like landed in the perfect situation with the REDBLACKS. He shared space in the coaches offices with running backs coach Nathan Taylor, the former University of Ottawa receivers coach that was hired on after serving as the Diversity In Football placement in training camp a year ago.
“He’s someone that I’ve been acquainted with from his time in the OUA and it’s great to have the experience to be with him and have that resource there all the time right by me in terms of someone who is also a younger coach and figuring himself out,” Coates-Cameron said.
“He was kind of like a big brother figure that’s been able to help me through this process.”
While he worked with the coaching staff, he said he was welcomed in throughout the organization, with doors open throughout the offices at TD Place. As someone with long-term goals of one day adding general manager duties to his coaching resume, getting a glimpse of how Burke operates was extremely valuable.
“The entire office was really open to me and they made that clear to me there wasn’t a door that I couldn’t knock on or an office I couldn’t sit in and ask questions,” Coates-Cameron said.
“Seeing how (personnel meetings) work first-hand…all I wanted or needed to see were the conversations and how they handle it. Getting to see how they have those conversations at the pro level was a thing I didn’t have much experience with and it was an eye-opener.”
As someone at the start of what he wants to be a long career in football, Coates-Cameron saw the opening that the Diversity In Football Program can provide and happily jumped through it. He hopes that he’s one of many more to take advantage of the opportunity, with the program having just wrapped its second year.
“It’s a very important program both from the diversity aspect of getting people with more diverse backgrounds into coaching as well as just the…rarity of opportunities like this for anyone who has prior experience coaching,” he said. “It’s something that’s hard to get into but also really hard to climb the ranks.
“It’s not exactly a profession that you can hop online and get a certification for and start applying for jobs on Indeed. We have to build relationships and get opportunities like this for anyone to even consider you down the road. The CFL is an insular community. Everyone knows everyone and communicates with everyone. If you can make a good impression…the doors can really be opened.”