With the spring season fast approaching, the Cowichan Bulldogs held their popular camp recently, and are taking steps to address injury concerns among players and parents.
According to club coach Devon Lawrence, the camp was “excellent,” with 73 players between the ages of eight and 14 attending from all over the Island, and even the Mainland. While there are plenty of other options for young football players in terms of camps, the Cowichan edition is unique.
“We are the only organization in the province that does a full-gear, two-day camp in the spring,” Lawrence related.
The group also included one player from Ucluelet, where there is no minor football presence whatsoever, trying the sport for the first time.
“It’s a great opportunity for youth to try out the sport for the first time before the season starts,” Lawrence said.
The camp boasted 28 coaches, the big name being BC Lions linebacker Adam Bighill, who has been part of the camp for four years, since long before he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
“He’s incredible,” Lawrence said. “The kids just love him, and we’ve seen him come a long way as an athlete.”
Other coaches came from the Cowichan Bulldogs, Sooke Seahawks, Ladysmith Steelers and Campbell River Eagles minor football organizations, and coaches and players from the junior Westshore Rebels and Vancouver Island Raiders, including Bulldogs alumni. Lawrence expressed his gratitude to the coaches and other volunteers.
“The camp could not happen without volunteers giving up their weekends and some even more than that,” he said.
The Bulldogs are also touting the benefits of the Safe Contact system, intended to minimize the risk to players.
“Football Canada mandates that coaches need to have that as a baseline for how we want contact to happen in the sport,” Lawrence said, noting that all Cowichan head coaches are trained in Safe Contact.
Less than 90 per cent of players run, catch or throw the ball, Lawrence pointed out. Most are involved in blocking and tackling, making it paramount to teach them to do it safely.
“It teaches coaches to all coach the same way when it comes to blocking and tackling,” he said. “The focus of it is on taking the helmet and head away from it.”
Concussions have been all over the media recently, and minor football has taken steps to address those concerns according to Lawrence.
“Concussions happen in all sports,” he said. “It’s about if they’re reported or not. We in football are doing an excellent job of reporting when there are concussions or head injuries of any type. When we suspect that there’s been a hit, even if a kid says he’s fine, we want the trainer to take a look at them. If there is something, we don’t want to put a child at risk when they could have been protected by sitting out.”
Coaches go by the mantra, “When in doubt, sit them out,” and if a concussion is suspected, a doctor’s note is required before players can take the field again.
Registration for the spring season is ongoing. The Bulldogs will have two tackle teams this spring, peewee (11-12) and junior bantam (13-14), as well as a U10 flag football program that started last year to huge success. Visit cowichanfootball.com for more information.