Football players from across the southern portion of Vancouver Island gathered in Duncan on Sunday to test their abilities in a combine at the Cowichan Sportsplex
The combine is part of a new program created by the B.C. Provincial Football Association, intended to identify and develop football players in B.C. The athletes participated in a range of tests, with the results collected and used to monitor their development and potential. According to Cowichan Bulldogs coach PJ Shea, the immediate goal is to help pick players for Team BC, but the larger goal is to promote football and B.C. athletes.
“We have athletes at this combine who have the potential to progress in football as far as they wish,” Shea said. “Southern Vancouver Island is producing many of the best football players in the province, potentially the country. We, as coaches, are amazed at the work ethic, and the drive of these athletes. Many of the combine test results from this weekend are comparable, if not better than, many of the testing results at the post-secondary level. It’s incredible.”
The BCPFA has created a football academy for southern Vancouver Island, in which all athletes who play for teams from Cowichan south can participate. At this point, it consists of weekly practices that focus on fitness, movement and football-specific drills. Practices are split between Cowichan and Langford.
Every community and high school football program in the region is represented in the academy, and all programs were represented at Sunday’s combine as well. Players were tested in the 40-yard dash, pro-agility, broad jump and bench press, with the results used by players to measure their own improvement and by the coaches to identify potential.
“The combine was highly competitive, as many of the participants have already been identified as elite players,” Shea commented.
Players ranged in age from the U13 to U19 ranks, with the older ones aiming not only for Team BC but also for the university ranks.
“Reality is that the potential of playing professionally is highly unlikely; and that should never be the objective in youth sport. If we, as coaches, can help these athletes get to a place where even some of their post-secondary studies are paid for, that is fantastic. Many of our coaching staff were able to leverage the sport into a university degree. It shows that it’s attainable, which I think is a great motivator for the older players.”
The combine was the second in a process that will end with the announcement of Team BC and Team Canada in July. Cowichan Football has a number of athletes in the provincial process, and five of the coaches are from the local program.
“Obviously, I am biased, but I look at our organization (Cowichan), as one of the premiere community programs in the province,” said Shea. “The athletes that are developing with us are exceptional. Not all will make the provincial selection, but many will. Maybe it’s the water, maybe it’s just the result of growing up in the Valley, but we have some of the most driven, and dedicated youth athletes anywhere.”