May 27, 2024

Antsey seeking growth in Diversity In Football Program

Christopher Anstey is a perfect example of the Diversity in Football Program presented by Securian Canada at work.

Anstey, who also serves as the defensive line coach at the University of Calgary, has joined the Calgary Stampeders as part of the program that sees one participant from a diverse cultural background join each team’s football operations department for training camp. For Anstey so far, working with head coach Dave Dickenson and his staff has more than lived up to expectations.

“The first meeting I was in with coach Dickenson, he said: be your authentic self,” Anstey told “And he’s stressed that the entire time during camp. I can’t think of anything that speaks more to diversity and people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, religions, whatever it is.

“The forefront of his message is that we’re all different and if you’re authentic, then everybody around you is going to be comfortable and that’s really been the message through the entire camp.”

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Anstey’s football road has been a long and winding one. A Nova Scotia product, Anstey played his college ball for current Ottawa REDBLACKS head coach Bob Dyce at the University of Manitoba. A coaching stint at St. Mary’s University in Halifax followed, which eventually led him west to Calgary.

So, when Anstey saw Dyce hire Nathan Taylor as running backs coach out of last year’s Diversity in Football program, he figured it was something he should at least explore. And upon Dyce’s encouragement, that’s exactly what Anstey did. Drawing interest from both the REDBLACKS and Stamps, Anstey chose the latter to remain close to family in his new hometown.

And the experience has been rewarding across the board.

“I’ve worked very closely with (defensive line coach) Juwan Simpson,” Anstey said. “Juwan and I are from opposite ends of the world. He’s from Alabama, I’m a Nova Scotia guy. But just to see his interaction with Canadian players, be it caucasian players, Black players, whatever it is, and breaking down those barriers.”

Simpson and the Stampeders have also leaned heavily on Anstey’s football background. Integrating him into their coaching staff, they put Anstey to work immediately.

“Juwan has been extremely respectful of my background. I’ve been coaching defensive line at the U SPORTS level since 2012 so I have a bit of history. As soon as I came in, he told me straight up: I’m not here to give you graduate assistant work.

“That was flattering, so right away I was able to sit down, and I gave him an honest and very blunt opinion on some of the things I thought they were doing and schematically. Where I felt they were strong and where I thought they could use some work. In some cases he agreed and in some cases he told me straight up: you don’t understand. It was really refreshing.”

Anstey is one of three West Division participants joining CFL coaching staffs as part of this year’s program. Guelph Gryphons head coach Mark Surya has joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as he continues his unprecedented offseason. Surya was promoted from offensive coordinator to head coach in December and now gets to work closely with a pair of Guelph legends in Bombers general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea.

Guelph Gryphons head coach Mark Surya is one of the nine participants in this year’s Diversity In Football program (

Former CFL standout Ventson Doneslon is working with the Saskatchewan Roughriders during camp before returning to the Regina Rams as defensive backs coach, a position he’s held since 2016. Donelson spent 10 seasons with the Riders between 1991 and 2000 racking up 12 interceptions and 354 defensive tackles in 115 appearances.

In Edmonton, McGill engineering student Ingi El Shahid has joined the team’s football staff after recently helping the Redbirds with data analytics for game day operations. And Calgary based certified athletic therapist Susan Lam has joined the BC Lions in their athletic therapy department.

For all the West Division’s Diversity in Football participants, though, this opportunity will do nothing but open doors down the road. And for many, like Anstey, it only makes pursuing full-time work in the CFL an even more attractive goal to chase.

“I really believe that you have to be where your feet are,” Anstey admitted. “Those opportunities will come knocking if you’re doing the right things and you’re surrounding yourself with the right people. This program was a step in that direction.

“Everybody has a goal to be at the top of their craft. Long term I could definitely see myself continuing to pursue being the best at what I’m doing. And to be the best at what you’re doing, you have to do it at the top level. So, the CFL would definitely be a long term goal, but the biggest thing for me is stay focused. Don’t worry about the next job, don’t worry about where you can be. Worry about where you are.”

As Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said last month, there’s always more to do when it comes to making football and this league a more diverse and inclusive space. But year three of the Diversity in Football Program is another important step forward in doing just that.

“It’s immeasurable, the importance,” Anstey said. “I’m a Maritime kid. I grew up in a predominantly Black community. I was an interracial kid and that came with its own complexities. The first time I had a minority coach I was 21 years old starting at the University of Manitoba and that was Bob Dyce.

“When you’re having times of doubt, (it’s important) having more and more people from different walks of life and different backgrounds.”

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