Every morning around 5 a.m. at the Edmonton Elks training camp, Gladymir Charmant and Chris Jones take an hour-long walk.
Charmant, defensive line coach for the University of Montreal Carabins, uses one-on-one time with the Elks general manager, head coach and defensive coordinator to dive into how to run a soccer program.
“I really get to pick his brain about the draft, what he didn’t like in practice,” said Charmant, who is attending training camp in Edmonton as part of of the CFL’s Diversity in Football program.
“It’s an opportunity to learn more about how football works. I am learning to manage a whole team. I come to the stadium with coach Jones every morning and I leave with him every evening. This is a hands-on experience. I learn from someone I consider the best.
Charmant, a Montreal native who played college football for the Carabins, scored two goals during his time with the Elks.
First, he learns skills and training techniques that he can apply when he returns to the Carabins. Charmant is also gaining knowledge that he hopes will help him in his long-term goal of operating a football program at École Secondaire Georges-Vanier in Laval, Quebec.
Charmant helped start a program in high school a few years ago.
“I really built it from scratch,” he said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was just piloting it.
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In 2018, Charmant took the coaching job at the University of Montreal. When the football diversity program became available, he saw a chance to better understand how to run a high school program.
“It was the best internship I could have had,” he said. “I see how things work.”
During his career, Charmant coached at the midget and bantam AAA levels in Laval. He was the head coach of the Montreal Royals, which he guided to the Quebec Junior Football League championship game in 2016. He also spent time as a teacher.
“In my life, I’ve had a few football and basketball coaches who really stood out for me,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.
“I’m very grateful for what (University of Montreal) offers me, but I think high school would be best for me. »
While in Edmonton, Charmant saw how Jones runs a fast-paced training camp with plenty of time spent playing 12-on-12.
He also learned that the man who freely shares his thoughts on morning walks changes when the practice whistle sounds.
“The switch flips quickly,” Charmant laughed. “When it’s training time, he has no friends. He insulted me several times for not doing what I was supposed to do.
“But you know, at the end of the day when we get in his truck and go back to the hotel he explains to me why and what happened. I really appreciate that he doesn’t just treat me like an intern. He is really very involved with me.
Charmant also works with Demetrious Maxie, the Elks’ defensive line coach.
Maxie was a member of the former Baltimore Stallions which became the Montreal Alouettes in 1996. Charmant said the Alouettes’ return sparked a resurgence in football in Quebec.
“I was one of those kids,” he said.
Charmant remembers going to an Alouettes training camp and being photographed with Maxie.
“Fast forward and now I’m in his office, we’re talking about a whole bunch of stuff,” he said. “He’s a big guy, he looks mean but he speaks so softly.
“He taught me a lot. It was an open book. We talk about exercises, we talk about philosophies.
Under Jones, Edmonton uses a more aggressive defensive system than the Carabin, but Charmant has picked up ideas on how to organize practice and drills for players.
“Nobody walks around,” he said. “Everyone has to run everywhere. There is no wasted time. Everyone is gassed at the end, whether you are coach, trainer or player.
“Just the speed of play, the speed of coaching. This is what I try to bring back to the University of Montreal.
The Diversity in Football program will see the football operations department of each CFL club welcome an individual representing a racialized group or an underrepresented community.
Charmant said while there are many black coaches in the CFL, it’s still a challenge to find jobs.
“The coaching staff here, they all know each other,” he said. “Who you know puts you in place and what you know will keep you there. Unfortunately, if you look at head coaches at the university, college, or high school level, a coach leaves and they’re going to put somebody they know back in there.
“I think with this month-long opportunity, I’m coming back to the college level with the experience I never would have had without this program.”
When he arrived in Edmonton, Charmant wondered if the Elks coaches would accept him.
“I am a university coach, my English is not good,” he said. “But the coaches really embraced me. They told me they were a phone call away.
“I don’t have a father who was a coach or a cousin who played in the league. I really didn’t know anyone at that level. So I am very grateful for this opportunity. This gives me a lot of stripes in football in Quebec. »