#CFCOVFL: Rukavina reflects on Varsity Warriors season

Last weekend, the London Jr. Mustangs eliminated the Mississauga Warriors from the Ontario Varsity Football League (OVFL) playoffs.

Since then, first-year Varsity Warriors Head Coach Curtis Rukavina has had some time to reflect on this past season.

“This season has been exciting, fun and also a learning experience for me,” said Rukavina.  “It was a challenge cause there was a lot going on.”

Additionally, Rukavina admitted that he really did not know what to expect coming into the season. However, the transition from Junior Varsity to Varsity was made easier with ownership’s support from the beginning allowing Rukavina and his staff to implement their knowledge and philosophy.

At the varsity level, Rukavina and his staff are amongst the youngest coaching staffs in the league. Despite their youth and inexperience at this level, Rukavina believes that the coaches will get better through experience.

“Experience is going to be the first step,” said Rukavina. “If you look at other head coaches around the league, you’ll see that this is not their first rodeo.”

“The more we’re out there the more experience we’ll gain. The more opportunities we’ll have to be put in situations that are new to us which will help us learn.”

One thing Rukavina would like to see from the Warriors next year is the players buying into the system immediately. Throughout the season, there were instances when some players did not see eye to eye with the coaching staff and decided to leave the team.

With that said, Rukavina believes if he can get the players on the same page from the onset, the team will fare much better overall.

“We got to have a precedence set from the start,” said Rukavina.  “We can’t be ad-libbing as we go along or switching the whole script mid-season.”

Going into next season, Rukavina believes with some added depth to the roster and a longer training camp where he can get acclimated with the players will prove to be very beneficial for the team moving forward.

Also, Rukavina was not named the head coach until April, which did not leave a great deal of time for the him and his staff to implement their philosophy and get across what they expect from their players. Most coaches around the league had already started their training camps in March, so the Warriors were already playing catch up.

As well, the lack of depth at times forced players to be on the field for extended periods of time or play positions they were not entirely comfortable with. At the start of the season, there were over 50 players on the roster. By season’s end, there were 35 active players on the team.

Despite these obstacles that hampered the team at times, Rukavina is enthusiastic about the team he could potentially have next season.

“The sky is the limit with this team,” said Rukavina.  “The youth this team possesses is a strength.”

Impact players such as Damien Jamieson and Kian Schaffer-Baker could potentially play a couple more seasons. With some more time under the tutelage of the Warriors coaching staff, these players could become something special.

“You just got to allow these guys to grow and build,” adds Rukavina.  “These guys made major strides and became a lot better as the season wore on.”

Aside from the returning talent the Warriors will have next season, the team plans to do plenty of recruiting and will also receive some talent graduating up from the junior varsity level.

While players on this team continue to get better, Rukavina knows the entire staff will have to work just as hard to match the intensity and work ethic his team brings.

“Now we have to do our part to equal them,” said the Warriors Head Coach. “They’re showing up and putting in the work every day, now we have to be there for them.”

“It’s just as much on us as it is on them.”

During the Warriors offseason, Curtis will be keeping himself busy as the Toronto Argonauts Player Personnel Assistant. This experience at the professional level has proved to be useful in helping Curtis coach the Warriors. With some time with the pros, more time in training camp and a deeper roster, Rukavina feels his Warriors will be even better next season.

Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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