Football Mountie coach Gaetan Richard (wearing a ball cap), with the help of several members of the football Mounties, runs local youth participating in a special training camp last week through a drill Friday. DOHERTY PHOTO
There is no doubt that many of the things that took place in Mount Allison’s athletic centre last week will have a lasting impact on the 30-40 young men who took part, and the long range benefits will be reaped by the likes of Scott O’Neal and his competent coaching staff with the Tantramar Titans.
Under the direction of Mountie head coach Kelly Jeffrey and directed by his two coordinators – Scott Brady and Gaetan Richard – the young men, aged 9 to 17, were well drilled in the basic fundamental of proper football technique. Roughly 20 Mountie players, during break from classes, became involved and the young students could relate well, as some were only a few years older. They also showed a good deal of admiration for the older players who played key roles in leading the Mounties to the Uteck Bowl last fall.
Richard said during a break in the action that the main goals of the camp were to keep the boys active, especially those interested in football, and to hone their skills while the temperatures were still in the minus range so they might be better prepared come late summer and fall.
He said the camp was really about more than just skill development but also included work on self-discipline and team play.
Richard only smiled when it was suggested he might be looking to develop some highly talented young men who could eventually join his under-18 provincial team, which he directs during the summer. But he admitted that would be a bonus and also an extra one if some of the summer camp students ultimately came to the Mounties like Michael Bohan and Matt Rose did, and make similar contributions to the team.
“We really want these young men to learn to enjoy the game by playing it the correct way,” he added, “and in this manner they probably will want to continue through Tantramar and then join the Mounties.”
During the five-day camp each aspect of the game was demonstrated and taught and the students were expected to show improvement each day. While Mountie players were giving individual attention, the booming voices of Brady and Richard filled the McCormack Gymnasium as they picked up on any miscues and demanded repeats until they were done perfectly.
One boy, Ezra Istvanffy, said during a break in the drills that he had never played football before, but was confident he had absorbed so much knowledge and gained some understanding of the game that he is hopeful of making a spot with the Titans this fall.
“This has been an absolutely great program and as a 15-year old I’m greatly pleased with how everything has been organized and operated and I am sure I will be ready for competition come fall.”
Parents also expressed satisfaction and pleasure with how the camp operated and pointed out how fortunate the young people are to have the opportunity to receive individual tutoring from not only great coaches but by players who have proven their skill level by carrying the struggling Mounties to the Atlantic championship, playing before a crowd of more than 3,700 at MacAuley Field.
Bryce Allen of Baie Verte, parent of nine-year old Conrad, said he was impressed by the interaction between coaches and students.
“It’s just amazing what they are learning and they pay attention because they recognize they are learning from some of the best in the country – my son’s only wish is that the camp ran for a longer period of time.”
Allen, who works in Northern Quebec, played for the Titans in 1991 and ’92 under coach Mark Bohan as a linebacker. He has also gotten into coaching, especially since Conrad got involved in the game last year in the Sackville Minor Football Association program.
Sam Alward, a linebacker with the Titans, opted to upgrade his skills by attending the week-long program and said he knows a lot more today about the game than he did a week earlier, which should immediately prove an asset for O’Neal as he attempts to move the Titans into contention.
Coach Richard, who is coordinator of the university’s fitness centre, said the camp was just another part of the athletic centre’s outreach program, which attempts to embrace the greater community of Tantramar by offering a variety of interesting programs. He said this particular camp was designed to work on all the things that make a better player – proper tackling, blocking, receiving and development of an improved approach to life in general. Running backs were also offered instruction, but unfortunately Jordan Botel – the man who carried the ball more than 350 times without committing a fumble – was unable to attend as he prepares for the huge combine camp in Toronto, where CFL scouts will be examining every aspect of their game.
Richard said it’s hoped the Mounties will be able to offer these programs on an annual basis while they will no doubt be looking for other ways to contribute to the community. At present, they run an anti-bullying program in the schools, offer advice and assistance to special children and are involved in the Relay for Life. When a director of football operations is appointed it is believed such programs will be further developed.