Are you ready for some football?
Taber’s bantam football teams hope the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
The bantam team will open its spring camp on Tuesday, April 21, in preparation for the annual spring jamboree in Medicine Hat on Thursday, May 14.
“It’s an important time of the year,” said bantam head coach Garrett Simmons. “We only have a few short weeks to get ready for the jamboree, see how many players we might have for the fall and get everyone up to speed as quickly as we can.”
Spring gives newcomers a chance to give the sport a try, as Simmons added he’s witnessed players new to the game get a good head start in spring, and then come back better prepared in August.
“In a perfect world, we’d like to attract upwards of 10 new players every spring, and use the April and May practices to teach them the basics of the game — blocking and tackling technique specifically, so they can really hit the ground running when we start up again and get ready for the regular season.”
Practices in the spring will go Tuesdays and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at W.R. Myers. Simmons added a few Saturday practices will also be added to the schedule.
“There is a lot to go over, from a quick review of the basics for the veteran players, to more complex skills like catching a football and being in the right position on defence, all the way to learning the offensive and defensive playbooks,” said the coach.
With a strong core of second-year bantams returning from a Taber Rebels team which won the Southern Alberta Minor Football Association Tier 3 championship last year, expectations are high for the 2015 season.
“We are returning a lot of our skill players, including our quarterback, and a number of starters who made a big impact last year on defence,” said Simmons. “That said, what we’re short of is overall numbers. With the kids staying in bantam and players moving up from peewee, we’ll be lucky to have over 20 on the roster. We need more players — big or small, from anywhere in our drawing area, from Taber, Barnwell, Grassy Lake to Vauxhall and beyond.”
The coach added football is a unique sport, which brings together a wide range of kids and unites them towards a singular goal.
“I’ve witnessed it over and over again, as kids from different towns, different schools and different backgrounds come together every year and become Rebels,” said Simmons. “It’s unlike any other sport, as on a football team, anyone can be a key contributor, from the speedy, smaller kids all the way to the big, bruising players who may not fit in as well on a soccer field or on the ice.”
Football is the ultimate team sports, Simmons added, where only one player has the ball at any one time, but if the other 11 players on the field aren’t doing their jobs, there’s little chance for success.
“We stress teamwork, in every phase of the game,” he said. “That’s the only way a football team can have success. You can have the most talented running back in the world, for example, but if you’re blockers aren’t picking up defenders, it’s going to be a long day. It’s the same thing on defence. One player, no matter how dominating, simply can’t make every tackle. You need guys forcing the play inside, occupying blockers and supplying help taking down the other team’s ball carriers.”
Teamwork is just one part of the equation, as the coach added the confidence football can build in youngsters is one of the reason he steps on the field every year.
“I’ve been coaching for over a decade in Taber, and every year you see it — a kid who may lack a little self-esteem, who maybe doesn’t fit into any certain clic in town or maybe struggles a bit at school, who just blossoms on the football field,” said Simmons. “We’re all about building football players through our program, but we’re also about building young men into the kind of people we’re proud to see later on in high school and out in the community.”
The first part of the process, however, is getting registered for the season.
Players looking to try the sport this spring can pick up a registration form at The Taber Times, or by calling Simmons at 403-382-0681. A $30 fee will be charged for spring camp.
“It’s absolutely crucial those interested in playing register before April 21,” said Simmons. “Players can’t step on the field, or get their equipment, without being registered.”
Equipment pick-up will be held Monday, April 20, starting at 3:45 p.m. in the equipment shed behind W.R. Myers, across from the outdoor basketball court. Registration forms will also be available that day.