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How a Tacoma helped transform football practice

May 25, 2017

Sebastian Clovis Weight Sled Training

In 1992 he joined the Scarborough Thunder Minor Football Team, a brand new rep team that was only a year into its existence

Back then, the season would run into late fall making for some chilly nights. But out of all those bracing evenings practices, one session was particularly intense.

One evening following a snow fall, the team was running through practice unable to see the field for slush and puddles of ice water.

The players did what they could to keep dry including wearing plastic bags under their cleats. However any hopes on their part that practice would be cut short would be dashed by a coach determined to toughen up his players.

“The end of practice came around and rather than doing our usual running drills, Coach found the deepest slush puddle on the field, blew his whistle and made us start doing Oklahoma hitting drills right in the middle of it,” he says recalling the shock on his team-mates’ faces.

I know how excited I would have been if we had weight sleds when I was a kid. We would have been lining up and fighting each other for a chance to use them.

“We were all scared to fall into the freezing water, but none of us wanted to show weakness so we howled at the moon, soldiered up and got in line. It was an insanely intense hitting drill, but we did it and by the end, we were soaked from head to toe in ice water and none of us could feel our bodies.

“When we were finished with practice, I took my soaking shoulder pads and shirt off and stood looking around the field in the dark sub-zero weather and I just remember having this real feeling of invincibility.”

Training in such extreme conditions would come to have a significant impact on Sebastian and his teammates, both in the long and short term.

“That day upset some of our parents, but it made us all stronger. It made us both physically and mentally tougher. When we went into our game the following week I could say we annihilated the opposing team, but I’ll just say we made short work of them.“

Fast forward a little over a decade and Sebastian and three other players from that team are playing for teams competing in the 2006 Grey Cup final. The resilience drilled into this Scarborough team took some of its first players on to be part of the biggest game in Canadian football history.

Sebastian Clovis Building Weight Sleds on Toyota Tacoma

Sebastian has no doubt that the mental strength instilled by the coaches was what drove the players’ success even with the team’s modest resources.

“The team was new and we didn’t have much. We barely had cones to set up drills with,” he says, stressing that the team’s success came from the coaches’ intensity and ability to achieve a lot with a little.

Now a coach for Thunder football himself, Sebastian works to instill the same physical and mental toughness in the team, while helping to provide equipment him and his teammates didn’t have. This was his motivation for building the weight sleds on the back of his Toyota Tacoma.

“I know how excited I would have been if we had weight sleds when I was a kid. We would have been lining up and fighting each other for a chance to use them. That’s the kind of equipment we believed only the best players in the world got a chance to use.”

The Tacoma was instrumental in being able to get the sleds to the team. Sebastian grabbed some scrap offcuts from one of his renovation sites and using the truck’s in bed AC Plug feature was able to build them on the spur of the moment.

“Rather than throw away the scrap lumber, I decided to upcycle some of it, so I threw it into the bed of the truck, drove to practice and built the sled right there in the parking lot,” he says.

“The Tacoma has the ability to work as a tool bench. It’s got a plug in the bed that allowed me to run my palm sander and make sure that the skis on the bottom of the sled were nice and smooth. I didn’t want them to tear up the field turf.”

Completed Weight Sled

Not only did the sleds receive a great reception from the team in training, but – as Sebastian sees it – the sleds have a symbolic value to the young players

“I hope to be an example to the kids that there’s more than one way to make it and that with a little ingenuity and effort, anything can be achieved. That’s a lesson that is translatable both on and off the field,” he says.

“The kids know that I live my life like an adventure, I’m always looking for the next challenge, the next mountain to climb. I’m always looking for a new experience that helps me improve myself and my community, so when they see me pull up in my Inferno coloured Tacoma, they know it’s go time!”