Recruiting is an interesting process by which student-athletes go through with very little guidance. There are many factors to consider when you’re trying to decide where to pursue your cegep or university career. Many put a huge emphasis on playing time being a big influence on where a player should play. Personally, I’ve always wanted to compete with the best players and felt that I would be able to rise to the occasion of playing for a D1 team. When I finished my first year of midget AAA, I had the choice to stay and play another year at that level or make the jump to a cegep D1 level team. I felt that, for the betterment of my career, I would grow faster as an athlete as a first-year player in a good division 1 program than I would should I remain with with my midget team for a senior year - even if I was guaranteed lots of playing time. My decision to leave was met with contempt and given that I was left to myself to promote my skills, I opted to attend a showcase combine which ultimately helped to open many doors for me. I tested well and my performance on the field that day led to a few schools calling me up and showing serious interest. That was an amazing feeling.
Had I known
When it comes to selecting a cegep – an institution where you are to spend the next 2-3 years of your life - it is essential to consider how this school will help develop your athletic skills and not just worry about playing time. What I have come to realize is that players who attended schools that have complex systems on offence and defence, usually have more successful university careers because good programs usually teach you how to play within a system. It weaves out the players who cannot work in systems. Obviously, there are exceptions to athletically gifted players. Personally, I went from passing plays known as play “34”, to “Wax Caddy Bear Str Keeper” and that was a huge jump from me. It took me a whole year to start understanding how every word in a playbook was a tag and meant something to every position on the offensive side of the ball. The next big step is being able to identify the type of coverage the defence is playing in front of you. This part was essential since at the cegep level you often have different routes you can run on the same play, depending what type of coverage your defender is executing.
Many players struggle with the transition from high school to cegep football for those reasons. The reason why high school players should go to programs that have good systems (especially if you were like me and your playbook in high school was simple) is because it prepares you for the next level. If you’re able to rise through the depth chart to the starting lineup over the course of your elite playing years and perform you will be able to perform at the university level in any league, especially being from Quebec. I didn’t start for two years at Champlain Lennoxville and all that mattered to me was in my last year, I was able to start & perform at a high level in a football program with a great system. Playing at the USports level now, I now truly see the importance of playing in a good system and all the knowledge I acquired from those two years on the bench and that one great season on the field helps me tremendously at the next level. So much so that when my name was called to play during my rookie year this year, I was able to step in and perform.
AJ Chase is a Montrealer who played football in the QBFL, QMFL and the Champlain-Lennoxville Cougars. He is now a student at Guelph University and has one more year of eligibility (post-COVID) .