YORKTON - Nearly 90 young football players were put through their paces with two days of drills at a camp in Yorkton.
The camp, arranged through Yorkton Minor Football, was ran by 49 North Football Camp for athletes ages 12-18.
Among the instructors was a special ‘guest’ for the event was former CFL star Nik Lewis.
Asked if coaching youth was his next career, Lewis, who was inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame with its 2021 class, said it’s something he is doing on occasion.
“I coached in B.C. for a year, and I’ve coached kids in Texas,” he said.
So with the eye of a former all star did Lewis see young prospects who might one day play at a top level?
“There so many factors,” he said, adding it starts with staying healthy. “There’s lots of factors not just athletic ability and skills.”
That said, players need a solid base in terms of skills, and there is where a camp comes in, providing little insights to help players.
Interestingly, Lewis said young players do not need to focus just on football.
“You get a lot of abilities from playing other sports,” he said.
What Lewis said he has seen is general improvement in the skills of young Canadian football players. He said from when he first came to Canada in 2004 until now things have changed, and for the better.
“I don’t think Canadian football players were as good as they are now,” he said, adding there were of course stand out exceptions such as Jason Clermont and Chris Getzlaf, but “talent pool is deeper.”
Jose ‘Coco’ Jarin one the camp’s regular instructors said he too has seen growth in Canadian football since his earliest ventures north.
“The IQ has risen,” he said, adding young players simply know more about the game today, and for that he credits better coaching.
It starts with local initiatives, and Lewis pointed to the announcement at Football Night In Saskatchewan regarding community support to install lights at Century Field, adding that sort of support is critical in developing young players.
“I’m from small town Texas. I know how much money goes into football,” he said.
It’s also about building the community of football, and sharing the knowledge of the game said Jarin, adding that is their job “to bring that knowledge” and in-part it to the young players.
For players it’s a case of accumulating knowledge over their developmental years putting “tools in their toolboxes” to be used in their football careers.
One of the key tools is to understand the importance of a player’s eyes, said Jarin.
“Your eyes are the most important thing to get you to the football,” he said, adding football is a reactive game in the sense players need to track where the football is at all times and flow toward it.
In the end though, most young players will not play beyond high school. Lewis said that’s OK, because the game is more than a sport.
“Sport teaches you life, and football is one of the biggest life teachers in sport,” he said, noting it is the ultimate team builder. “One guy can’t win a game.”
It’s a case of taking skills from the field to other aspects of life.
“We can’t all play football, but we can all be successful,” said Lewis.