Training camp opened for the Lloydminster Red Dogs midget football team on Sunday, but head coach Rod Kirby and his coaching staff already have a good idea going into the five days of camp what type of players they have.
Last Friday, the Red Dogs held their combine training day, testing strength, speed and endurance of the more than 60 players looking to make the Red Dog roster.
Football players in Lloydminster are known to train all year round for football, either at the high school, midget or lower levels, so times during the 40-year dash and weights at the bench press were high.
But it’s the things that can’t be measured that Kirby was interested in, especially when it came to players being ready and on time.
“The big thing we learn are little things, like what time are they showing up here,” said Kirby. “We started at 6 p.m., and there were guys here at 5 o’clock, chomping at the bit, ready to go. Then there were guys showing up two minutes to 6 p.m., and then I had guys showing up 10 minutes after.
“Right there it sends a message about how bad you want to be here. That’s one of the biggest things you learn. You already see who has the desire and who doesn’t, it shows all ready.”
The combine event didn’t include any drills with pads on, instead stayed focused on fitness. Pads will be worn during the training camp days, in what Kirby said is the real tryout for the midget football team that finished third in the Capital District Minor Football Association (CDMFA) last season, a year removed from winning it all in 2014.
While the Red Dogs want the best players physically, intelligence on the field and with the pads on will make the difference in being selected for the team.
“We want the fastest guys, we want the strongest guys, but definitely the more important part of it is when they strap on the gear,” said Kirby. “That is when you see what these guys have got. A lot of guys can run, a lot of guys can lift weights, but it takes a different mentality once you strap on the shoulder pads and helmet. We want to see who is football smart and has the intensity.”
The CDMFA changed its rules this season on roster sizes, limiting teams to 20 Grade 11 and 20 Grade 10 players. With 26 seniors returning to the Red Dogs, it is going to be a tough decision for Kirby and his staff, meaning even the little things at the combine could make the slightest difference between playing midget football this year or not.
Seeing the athleticism at the combine made some seniors realize what they are up against, as they know the 2016 squad won’t be a walk on team this year.
“You’re fighting for position now,” said Tommy Yanchuck, last year’s starting quarterback. “Every chance you get up could be your last, you never know. Everyone is taking it serious. I think we all realize that Lloydminster is a good football program and we like winning.”
Kirby said the team will be selected by Feb. 29, as they will head to Edmonton on March 12 for a scrimmage game against the Battle River Shock at Commonwealth Field House before the regular season begins in April.