The Vancouver Island Raiders football team worked on building bonds and getting better during main camp in Parksville this past weekend.
There were approximately 80 Raiders players and 20 coaches and volunteers who were all over the field at Ballenas Secondary School for the three-day camp. Action started on Friday and ended with a scrimmage on Sunday.
It was a first for the Nanaimo-based Raiders to hold their main camp in Parksville. The camp was hosted by Ballenas Whalers Football, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
“We’re really pumped about it,” said Raiders general manager Josh Williams. “The big thing is, because we’re a big community team from Nanaimo, it’s always good to form positive alliances with the other football organizations on the Island … We’re here trying to grow the sport. It requires many hands to make it work. So why not get the organizations to pull together for the sport and establish a team environment and do it collectively as possible?”
The Raiders were provided accommodations at Winchelsea Elementary School and also had access to Ballenas Secondary.
Williams said it was a massive task to undertake and credited the parents and the volunteers who came out to help make the camp run smoothly.
“Our organization has phenomenal workers,” said Williams. “We have a great group of moms whose kids have been playing [football] since they were five years old. It creates that family environment which is one of my biggest focuses as GM. We preach family all the time. Without the volunteers and the people that come out everyday, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are.”
With a lot of the players coming from all over Canada, Williams said, the goal was to try and make them bond together as a family.
“We had to make sure that they’re all taking care of each other,” said Williams. “That’s what we want.”
Among the players who were out taking part in the camp over the weekend was lineman Alex Williams, who had his hair partly shaved. The Ballenas grad said it was a Raiders ritual performed on first-year players and he didn’t mind it all.
“I like it,” said Alex Williams.
As for the training, he was savouring every minute of it.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s so different. It’s tougher but I am enjoying it.”
Ballenas head coach Dan Smith, who has been a staunch supporter of football in Parksville Qualicum Beach, said one of the goals was to showcase what football is all about to parents and young players and to eliminate the stigma that the sport is too rough and dangerous for young players.
GAME ON … The Raiders are preparing for the B.C. Football Conference season which gets underway on the August long weekend. The Raiders travel to play the Langley Rams on Aug. 3, visit the Westshore Rebels in Victoria on Aug. 10 and then host the Kamloops Broncos on Aug. 17 at Caledonia Park.