Spears tryouts start this weekend
The long, long wait for Niagara Spears football players to return to action is hopefully coming to an end.
The 2020 and 2021 seasons were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic but the coaches and players for the varsity, junior varsity and bantam teams are now ready to begin preparations for the 2022 Ontario Summer Football League season. Tryouts for the senior and bantam teams will begin this Saturday at Youngs Sportsplex in Welland followed by junior varsity tryouts on Sunday. Varsity and bantam tryouts will be staged from noon to 1:30 p.m. and junior varsity tryouts on Sunday will be held from 10:30 a.m. until noon.
“We’re excited but very hesitant in a sense that hopefully it doesn’t get pulled again,” Niagara Spears varsity head coach Brian Duguay said. “It seems like we started this process two years ago. We started in January and by mid-March we were unable to continue.
“Hopefully we can have a season and I am very optimistic after high school football was able to go. That was very good to see.”
The ability to get through the fall 2021 high school season was a positive sign for all involved with football. No games were cancelled and no COVID outbreaks among teams were reported.
“I was really happy for the players and the coaches to be able to get out there and finally have some degree of normalcy,” Duguay said.
The tryouts will continue indoors until the teams are able to get outside on Kiwanis Field in April. Practices ramp up to three times a week in April in preparation for the start of the season on the second weekend in May.
“We saw it in high school in the fall that the players had missed a year and it was hard,” he said. “We need to get them up to speed, get them back into contact and we have do our safe contract evaluations and programs. This year we are taking things softer and by baby steps compared to the past when high school was going at full bore and we could go at a little faster pace.”
Duguay was on the Westlane coaching staff in the fall and the lessons learned getting ready for the 2021 high school season will be applied to the 2022 summer season.
“What I noticed, and it is no knock on the high school coaches, but the players have not been involved in (high school) football for that one year and we need to focus a lot more on tackling and getting the courage back up,” he said. “The contact was missed and a lot of players started getting some bad habits. We need to focus on that and the overall system dynamics of the game.”
Players born in 2003 will be in their final year of varsity eligibility and the last time they played summer football was at the junior varsity level.
“These places are coming into a whole new system. We don’t know them and they don’t know us and we are going to have to take it slowly,” Duguay said. “We are going to have to get to know them and they are going to have to get to know us, what we expect from them and what they expect from us.”
Duguay viewed plenty of high school football last fall and is excited about all the skilled players there are in Niagara.
“There is a lot of nice talent out there and some big boys for the offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “We have a lot of good quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers and I’m very excited about al the talent there is in Niagara.”
The Spears’ organization has always emphasized finding the best players for each position, regardless of what schools the players came from and what level they played at.
“That started from Day 1 in 2004 and a lot of the good players were coming from Division 3 back then,” Duguay said. “We want to have the best players and get them going.”
Birth years for the different teams are: 2004, 2005 and eight 2003s for varsity; 2006 and 2007 for junior varsity; 2008 and 2009 for bantam; 2010 and 2011 for peewee; and, 2012 and 2013 for atom.
To attend tryouts, players must be registered. Proof of vaccination is required for any player over the age of 12.
To register visit, https://www.niagaraspears.ca.