Head coach Mike Benevides leans on God in his times of need and in his times of success
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay (left) receives instruction from head coach Mike Benevides during a team practice at B.C. Place Stadium. Lulay says Benevides is a great leader. Photo by Malin Jordan / The B.C. Catholic.
B.C. Lions head coach Mike Benevides says faith has always been his rock.
"It has served me well," Benevides told The B.C. Catholic. He said last year he turned to his faith when the Lions started their 2011 season with an 0-5 record. "Things weren't going well."
But things turned around for Benevides and the team as the Lions roared back and won 11 of their final 13 games en route to winning the Grey Cup.
The turnaround reminded Benevides to lean on faith in times of need, but also to turn to it in the good times.
The good times continued for Benevides after the 2011 season, when he was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Lions. He was named the 24th head coach in Lions history in December, then led the Leos to a first overall record in the CFL in his rookie season.
He credited his success with always keeping an even keel and remembering to be thankful to God along the way.
"As a head coach, the team takes its litmus test from you, so you can't get too high or too low," he said.
Benevides noted that doesn't mean he doesn't get emotional or lose his cool.
"You have to be true to yourself, and the team is going to see you when you are angry, happy, or emotional. But you have to stay poised in a time of adversity, because if you're the shepherd and the leader you have to stay on common ground and keep everybody focused."
"Mike has great passion, is a very hard worker, and a great leader of men," commented Dan Dorazio, the Lions offensive line coach. "Our football team is together because of him, because of things he says and the things he does."
"Mike is extremely loyal and a hard-working young man," added Lions General Manager Wally Buono. "He lives his life by example."
Buono said he is pleased with Benevides and how he's handled a Lions team facing high expectations after its championship season.
"You have to be very pleased with Mike and how he has handled things and led his football club," he said. "Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to meet and to pass those expectations, and at this point Mike has done that."
Benevides also enjoys being a part of a Lions organization that embraces and celebrates faith.
"Whether it's Athletes in Action or other people on the team, it's something that's not shunned at all," he said.
"It's great to be surrounded by good people, and people that believe a lot of the same things you do," said Lions quarterback Travis Lulay. "I've always felt that since I've been here, from coach Buono on down to coach Benevides now."
Lulay added that Benevides is a individual of high character, and that he's been fortunate to be involved with such a good coach and person.
Benevides was born into a Portuguese Catholic family in Toronto. He said his parents were very traditional Catholics and he would go to Mass in the morning with his grandma.
He said his faith life growing up established a good routine for his life, and he hopes, along with his wife Judy, to continue to pass along the faith to their children Ashley and Sarah.
The Benevideses are Star of the Sea (White Rock) parishioners. "It's a great community. It gives the girls an opportunity to grow up in the faith the way we grew up," he said.
Benevides also appreciates the days he spends volunteering at Star of the Sea elementary school, because it gives him a chance to get to know the community better.
One of those days involved the Grey Cup. Benevides and Lions quarterback Travis Lulay took the championship trophy to the school in April. Benevides said he always enjoys sharing the Grey Cup with friends and family.