Muskie football camp started off on the right foot Monday evening with more than 40 players turning out.
While coach Chad Canfield anticipates that some of the 42 attendees will find that football isn’t the sport for them, he still anticipates the net gain will result in a competitively-sized roster when the black-and-gold kicks off the WHSFL regular-season here Sept. 10 against Elmwood.
“I was, as most of the coaches were, thrilled with the amount of players that we had out,” the first-year head coach enthused.
“We’re at a safe, healthy level right now.
“We’ve got a few more guys coming out, but there’s a few that probably won’t stick,” he reasoned. “[But] as long as we can maintain this number, we’re in really good shape.”
While a large number of players bodes well in terms of having injury reinforcements, which the Muskies lacked last year (causing them to forfeit a game), Canfield also noted having more bodies than positions should help players reach another level if there is a target on their back for a job.
“There were a lot of guys out there competing,” he explained. “Last year, people who came out just assumed they were going to get playing time.
“Now that we’ve got a healthy number, it’s going to push people a little bit more to see the field,” he remarked.
“It’s always a good thing when people were competing with each other.”
Luke Hudson, who is entering Grade 12 this fall, was encouraged by Monday’s attendance.
While Hudson will miss the season due to injury and so won’t be able to join them on the field, he will help out with the team—and feels the attitude around the squad has improved.
“It looks like we’ve got a lot of new guys out here,” he observed.
“We’ve always wanted to win games and that, but I think this year’s better because we have more manpower,” he added.
“We’re not going to have to forfeit games just because we don’t have enough players.”
Lineman Cody Hunsperger credited Canfield and the coaching staff for trying out new recruitment methods, like a weekly flag football game, to help grow the game in town.
“Chad did flag football. I think that got people interested because I saw lots of new faces,” Hunsperger said.
About half of those on hand Monday were new recruits, and Canfield thinks the young and raw players can bring something to the team.
“We see some potential in some of the new guys,” he remarked. “People in this area don’t really have the opportunity to play football at a younger age.”
The biggest adjustment for many players will be learning to tackle safely in order to avoid injury, although several other aspects of the game will be a challenge, too.
“Like I told the guys yesterday [Monday], a lot of it’s going to feel a little awkward. It’s something different,” Canfield conceded.
“It’s challenging at first trying to convince them that tackling doesn’t hurt, that the pads are going to protect them, teaching them the proper form so they’re keeping their heads up and not getting injured.
“It takes a little bit of time.”
While the x’s and o’s might take a little while to develop, Canfield was encouraged by the effort and work ethic he’s seen in the early going.
“Usually, when we have young people like this and they’re enthusiastic to learn, that’s what I really like to see,” he stressed.
“When the kids have a great attitude and they’re enthusiastic to learn, they usually pick up on it really quick.
“We’ve got a good group out there,” he concluded.
While Monday’s session was in sweats and T-shirts only, going forward all practices will be in full equipment. Canfield said putting players in full gear will give him and the rest of his coaching staff a better idea of where each one should line up.
“When we get them in pads, hopefully we have a better idea of where each person should be,” he explained.
“You’re always going to have some of those guys who are in between, if they’re a lineman or a linebacker.”
One of Fort High’s most improved areas in terms of numbers should be on the lines, where the ranks should be fortified with an influx of young talent.
“Lineman was a place that we really struggled last year for numbers,” Canfield noted. “The skill that we had at the position was great, as it is this year.
“I hope there’s a little bit of excitement out there that we’re turning the corner here and we’re going to put a competitive team on the field.”
“We’re going to try as hard as we can and hopefully succeed,” pledged Hunsperger.
Canfield will be helped out by eight assistant coaches this year, and anticipates each one will chip in to provide something useful to the team.
“I really appreciate the coaches’ efforts,” he lauded.
“All the assistant coaches have been great and I’m really looking forward to working with them this season.”
Although the Muskies’ first game action—an exhibition showdown against St. Norbert on Sept. 3 in Winnipeg—is nearing, players still can show up for the team, which Canfield hopes they do so as soon as possible.
“I’m told that there’s always an influx of new players once school starts,” he noted.
“They’ll be a little bit behind, but we will welcome them on if they can help us out.”