Looking back on early football camps

  • Apr. 30, 2014 3:39 p.m.

It has been a long time since I was at a football camp as a player but the memory has stuck with me to this day and it’s one which makes me smile when I think back to it.

As a 10-year-old I was happily shipped off to the camp at the International Peace Gardens, situated on the border of Manitoba and North Dakota.

The week-long camp was the first taste of being away from parents for an extended period of time for many of us but the fact we got to play football all week long was enough of a distraction to defeat any homesickness.

The coaches at the camp came from various levels of coaching experience from high school, junior, university and the professional ranks so we were getting the benefit of some high-level football experience.

The regimen was simple back then and most of it remains the same to this day for many of these camps sprinkled around the country.

You ate breakfast together, you went to your morning session together, you ate lunch together, then to the afternoon session as a group and ending with supper and finally a welcoming sleep after a long day.

Instruction varied from basics for those of us just getting our feet wet in the game to some more advanced instruction for the players into their teen years.

The common thread here was no matter what level of player you were, coaches made sure you got their best in instruction and in return expected your best during the drills. It worked for me because once I got back to my team I felt I had a leg up on the competition due to what I learned at the camp.

We did plenty of bonding exercises even though we were not likely to play with the vast majority of the players at the camp aside from the camp-ending game.

One of my least favourite drills these coaches used was something called the Gas Saver. Six of the coaches piled into a convertible and put it in neutral. Then we had teams of five formed and took turns pushing the car around the quarter mile track.

Some of the coaches thought it was funny to put the emergency brake on about one hundred yards from the finish line. At the time, we didn’t see the humour in it.

We also didn’t see how much this taught us about working together with a common goal in mind (finishing the drill but also not passing out.)

I got to meet some people from around the football world including a large 17-year-old named Paul Seymour who went on to a career as a tackle at the University of Michigan and then to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Another acquaintance was coach Marshall Quelch who was a legend in minor football as a coach and player back in Manitoba.

He taught me the value in never giving up no matter what the odds and to keep your respect level of the other players you’re up against at a high level at all times.

The point of this scribbling is to draw attention to the football camp coming up in June at the ME Global Athletic Park in Lacombe for the fourth year in a row.

For three days football players from Atom to high school will be under the watchful eye of Head Coach Blake Nill, his coaches and players with the University of Calgary Dinos.

Now of course times have changed when it comes to how these camps operate but the constant is the fact some high level football people are there to give from their experience and it’s my humble opinion such an opportunity should always be taken advantage of when possible.

Apart from the valuable on-field instruction these kids get, they also learn something about the team dynamic and working with other kids they might not know.

This can only help develop not only good football players but good people in the end and that’s a winner in my mind.