People familiar with Canada’s university football scene may be astounded by the surge of success, in recent years, that has occurred at Wilfrid Laurier University.
The Golden Hawks are on the pedestal climbing to National supremacy – and that rise didn’t happen over night.
One person, who has had a great deal to do with the rise to prominence, is head coach and Manager of Football Operations, Michael Faulds. Young enough that there is no massive gap in ages with players, he has earned an immense amount of trust and respect – and just might be one of the youngest at his university job.
“I see myself as a counsellor, a football educator, a role model, a leader and a person who contributes to shaping the lives of others,” he said. “I enjoyed getting that from my coaches, became a good listener, and now I use it, in my own way, to impact current players.
“For a coach, it’s so important that you help athletes learn what it takes to be a good football player and a good member of society.”
Much has already been said about the wonders, talent, magic and prudent strategy of Faulds – a former star athlete and mentor. Now, as Coach Faulds, he may have a mild mannered demeanour, but hard work gets him going and then it’s all about football.
But even Faulds, who has a formula and vision for progress, may well have had some inner doubts about a quick fix when he took over a program in disarray – even labelled by some to be the worst team in the country. All he did was rapidly develop a group of players into a Yates Cup, or the best team in Ontario, champ.
To understand Faulds, who has his own distinct way of communicating in the dressing room, is to know someone that is driven by success. Loyal and ambitious, he also knows, and has experienced, the feeling of winning and losing.
“Intensity is important and I can get quite emotional before a game,” he said. “I have come out of a dressing room at halftime with my knuckles bloodied. It’s common for me to punch lockers, it’s the excitement that I have had since I started playing.”
After a chat with Faulds, whose leadership and toughness is quite clear, players are increasingly poised to take his advice, and then put it to use. Practices, to him, are not periods of relaxation – but times to pursue excellence and get better.
He’s very straightforward and also won’t hesitate to let people know they have to work harder.
Faulds, who left home at age 16, shuffled off to St. Andrew’s College in Aurora for a private school education. Then, off to prep school at Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pa. before a stint at the University of Toledo and, finally, his Master’s Degree at the University of Western Ontario.
“I was very fortunate to benefit from experiences in the NCAA, the CIS, private and public schools,” said Faulds, a former Canadian University Sport Coach of the Year. “I have watched, learned and took the best, and worst, from people who have been in my life.”
As a football player, Faulds just may have been the most decorated quarterback in Canadian university football. He was brilliant on the field, the recipient of many prestigious awards, multiple superb performances and earned a spot in the Canadian university sport record book as the all-time passing yards leader with 10,811 yards.
Then, it was off to coaching: a short time at York University, stops with Team Canada (where he also played) and Team World before recruited, by Laurier in 2013, to put life back in to a program in need of a huge lift.
“At times, I think it was like I was living a dream – and a dream that came true,” he said. “I feel very privileged. The work ethic and determination is what got me to where I am now, and the competitive instinct to do well is something that will never go away.”
*The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawk football team will kick off their regular season on Sunday, August 27th against the Toronto Varsity Blues. The game begins at 1:00pm at home, at University Stadium.Tickets can be bought at laurier.universitytickets.com