Chilliwack Giants and Valley Huskers strengthen ties

Chilliwack Minor Football's midget team returns as a feeder for the junior football Huskers.

The Valley Huskers and Chilliwack Giants are joining forces in 2018 and beyond, working together to grow football in Chilliwack.

Chilliwack Minor Football has been without a midget football program for the last two seasons, but it will return this fall as a feeder team for the junior football Huskers.

The midget team is for players ages 16-18 years old. The resurrected squad will operate under the guidance of head coach Matt Paisley, who will be placing heavy emphasis on player development.

“In the past there wasn’t a clearly defined relationship between the Giant and Husker programs, which resulted in a poor transition from community to junior football,” Paisley explained. “Our intention is to bridge this gap and offer kids from community football the best possible options for advancing their football aspirations to the next level.”

There is a significant learning curve as players jump from the midget and high school levels to junior, with adjustments to be made physically, mentally and emotionally.

Husker head coach Bob Reist said that while he would love to find a spot for all up-and-coming players within the Husker program, he recognizes that some aren’t ready to make that jump right away.

Reist and his staff will work closely with Paisley and his staff in a mentorship role, and Giants players should benefit from Reist’s collegiate connections as a former Manitoba Bisons coach.

The Huskers, who’ve taken their lumps on the field over the last decade, have struggled to recruit and retain local talent.

Reist spent last season developing ties with GW Graham’s high school program. He was spotted on the Grizzly sideline at several games last fall, offering his expertise to GWG’s coaches and players.

The Grizzlies and Giants have both fielded great teams over the past few seasons.

CMFA has produced B.C. champions at the midget, peewee and bantam levels over the last decade, including a bantam provincial title last fall. GWG is a regular contender in the AA provincial championship chase.

It would be great if that success filtered up to the Huskers.

“I believe building strong ties with local programs is vitally important to our success on the field and in the community,” Reist noted. “These relationships establish the eastern Fraser Valley as a strong option for local athletes and go a long way towards our goal of keeping local talent home in Chilliwack and building a successful program.

“New players coming to junior football all have different reasons for being there, and most of them recognize that moving directly to college football from high school or community football will result in reduced or no playing time. Junior football offers a strong, carefully crafted transition phase that allows players to gain the tools required to excel at the college level when their time comes.”

Reist hopes the new partnership will not just help bring local players into the Husker fold, but also help with recruiting outside of Chilliwack.

“We offer this same opportunity to kids from all communities throughout B.C. as well as players from out of province,” Reist

said. “We have many kids that come from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to grow their games and they will be afforded the same opportunity.”

Players graduating from GWG and Sardis secondary school will also have the option of playing out a final year of midget with the Giants to hone their skills before moving up to the Huskers.

“I trust that if any players don’t make our initial roster then Coach Paisley and the Giants organization will take good care of them,” Reist said.

Paisley looks forward to the new arrangement and having a midget football team back in action.

“We’re not just training football players. We are training quality young men,” he said. “Our goal is to give them the tools to succeed not only on the football field but in life as well.

“The Giants organization offers up to $10,000 in scholarships every year which would go a long way to help these players move forward in their educational aspirations.”

For info on the Giants midget program, email Paisley at mpaisley@chilliwackgiants.com. For info on the Huskers, email Reist at bobreist@gmail.com.

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