Incoming CFL rookies finding new ways to be mentally prepared in uncertainty

Preparation of all sorts continues with persistent hope for a shortened season

Trivel Pinto in game action against the Alberta Golden Bears during his final year at UBC in 2018. Bob Frid/UBC Thunderbirds

Despite the CFL season still being in limbo due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Trivel Pinto is one of a few incoming CFL rookies to not be deterred by it.

The Calgary Stampeders second round pick has taken advantage of the extra time applying everything he’s learned from former teammates currently in the CFL and his time at the Podyum All-Star Bowl in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, amongst others, to his mental preparation.

Having had this past year off due to his draft year being bumped because of a positive drug test in 2018, the former University of British Columbia star receiver feels as though nothing has changed for him by just continuing to work on what he’s added this year.

“This past year was kind of weird for me, but it’s definitely shaped my mental prep,” said Pinto. “It’s made me a lot stronger mentally, having this year off, having a lot of free time to think about what I want to do and what my goals are for this upcoming year.

“I’m still determined, still working hard, just waiting. Nothing’s changed, I’m still on my grind. Whenever they say it’s go time, I’m just going to be ready.”

Being mentally prepared has come with changes to his physical preparation. Having improved on his diet from his years at UBC, the former two-time first team All-Canadian has taken new approaches to his training and recovery as well.

“I’ve taken pride in that this past year, fuelling myself with all the proper foods like fruits and vegetables, carbs and proteins, lowered my fat and all that,” he said. “I picked up yoga this past year as well, so I’ve seen a lot of improvements in my mobility and my stability.

“Working on my mobility, my flexibility. Same thing but with a lot more attention to the off-field things like my recovery – rolling out, stretching, staying hydrated.

“At this level, it is a business, your spot isn’t guaranteed on that team, you have to be ready and able to play at all times. If not, it’s just a next man up mentality. Just taking care of myself so that I do have a spot and I am able to play and perform.”

It has also come with weekly zoom meetings with Stampeders receivers’ coach Marquay McDaniel and fellow Stampeders receivers.

“We’re going through the playbook slowly; we haven’t gotten into too much detail yet. We’ve just gone over terminology, formations, stuff like that,” said Pinto. “Next week we’re going to start getting into passing concepts, so that’s definitely something I’m looking forward to and I’m going to take advantage, since we do have all this time.”

“The season hasn’t started yet, so I have a lot more free time on my hands. I feel like my biggest priority right now is to get in that playbook so that when the time does come, I’m 100% ready to go – I’m not thinking on the field, I already have everything down.”

Zachariah Houghron is another incoming CFL rookie that has not been discouraged by the uncertainty.

Houghron is a draft pick of the reigning Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers, by way of the non-counter draft based on waiver priority.

Zachariah Houghron following a play against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in 2019. (Photo by: Jothan Salfarlie)

Finding new ways to sharpen himself mentally and keeping himself in check from any bad habits have been points of emphasis for the former Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks defensive lineman.

“Now, during this time, it kind of forces you to sharpen your skills with stuff like cooking – I’m becoming a master chef,” Houghron said. “I’m reading a lot more, trying new things, sharpening my mental game, doing a lot more.”

With coaches having informed him to expect to receive tape soon, he’ll have the chance to be able to use his extra time to study the pro game before any possible chance of attending training camp.

“I could go over schemes, how offences play, read the o-linemen, how they block. Just trying to work with the best that I can,” he said. “Being mentally prepared, that’s a big aspect of football.

“The worst thing you can do is walk into camp and you don’t know what’s happening. You can be strong, you can be however big, but if you don’t know the playbook, then you don’t know what’s going on around you.”

Being the odd case in having access to a gym, he has had to find new ways to stay in shape with a limited amount of weights in the apartment complex he currently resides in, in Waterloo, Ontario.

“You have to come up with ways to stay safe, stay active. I got lucky that, where I’m at, I have access to a little mini gym, so I could still do some workouts.

“It’s not the same thing as having your big gym like a Laurier gym (Athletic Complex) or a Goodlife or something like that. It’s a bit challenging, but just got to make sure you stay in shape and be ready.”

The hopes for a shortened season have only increased with team facilities being allowed to open with permission from local authorities. With that, has come high hopes for a chance to live out a dream and prove themselves on winning franchises.

“You want to be on the field, you want to get in the game so you can understand how the game really moves, said Houghron. “It’s one thing to see how it works, study for it, go over the playbook – then there’s the physical aspect where you apply it and you learn on the field.

“So that part will come into play when they open things up and there’s hope for August and September, but we’ll see.

“I would definitely prefer a shortened, alternative season compared to no season just because, I’m really looking forward to get back out there,” said Pinto. “This has been a dream of mine for a while. I’m just eager to get on the field and put on that Calgary uniform. Whether it’s Sept. 1 or Oct. 1, I’m just hoping that there’s a season.”

About this article

Posted: Jun 5 2020 11:10 am
Filed under: CFL Football Sports