Midget players battle on the McAdam Park field during a 2015 Vancouver Mainland Football League game. (Citizen file)

Midget players battle on the McAdam Park field during a 2015 Vancouver Mainland Football League game. (Citizen file)

Bulldogs tout football’s benefits as season approaches

Opportunities to advance to university or junior ranks

Preparations for the fall season of Cowichan Bulldogs football got underway last week with the first practice for the midget team, and head coach Mike Williams is still looking for players.

Football, Williams points out, can be the path to bigger things for young athletes, something he has experienced firsthand as one of several local players to move on to the next level of the sport, either in the junior or university ranks. A select few from the Cowichan Valley have even gone on to play pfofessionally in the Canadian Football League, including Hall-of-Famer Al Wilson.

“The midget kids are now at the age where they need to be thinking about what the next steps for them are,” Williams said. “And our coaches want to let them use football as a way to open some doors. Being born and raised in Duncan, I am thankful for what football has given me. So much so, I have been giving back now as a coach for the last 20-plus years. After high school, I left for sunny Southern California for two years and then back home to play junior in Victoria. I finished my degree and played football at UBC for three years. Football gave me life experiences and a path to an education that I am not sure I would have gotten without starting out playing Cowichan minor football.”

The midget program this season is open to players born between 1999 and 2001, the precise age when athletes are thinking about what comes after high school.

“With over 800 colleges and universities in Canada and the U.S. having football teams, there are plenty of opportunities for student-athletes to get an education and play the sport they love,” Williams pointed out. “For those that post-secondary education is not in the cards, the CJFL — junior football for ages 18-22 — offers a great alternative in a competitive environment.”

A handful of former Cowichan Bulldogs players are currently playing for both Vancouver Island junior teams, the V.I. Raiders in Nanaimo and the Westshore Rebels in Langford.

Even for those who don’t go on to play football at the next level, the sport has other benefits.

“Football is the ultimate team sport,” Williams said. “There is a position and a spot for every person of every size, shape and ability.”

Visit cowichanfootball.com for more info, or stop by McAdam Park in Duncan during practice sessions, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.