By Jeff Gard Total Sports Media
Preparing for varsity football season has been a case of two steps forward, one step back for the Quinte Skyhawks.
Working to ensure a safe return to the sport, the Skyhawks developed a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan involving six phases.
The first step, Phase 1, was Home Support with Zoom meetings set up to connect the players and coaches, to talk football, encourage each other and learn workout strategies.
Phase 2 enabled the players to start training indoors at the Loyalist Sports Dome, which they did during February and March. The goals included program specific training, skill development and mental readiness.
“Obviously the end goal for us is to put pads and helmets on and start hitting each other,” said Skyhawks president Peter Gabriel. “Now with everything that’s happening, we’re not sure where that will end up, but we still have our full registration going. We’ve taken the junior and senior varsity teams, we’re moving (back) to Zoom classes now and having team meetings through the month of April and then we’re hoping to get back on the field when things open up again.”
Skyhawks junior varsity football is for players born in 2004-2006 and the senior team is for players born 2001-2003.
Even with the step backward, the focus remains on getting outdoors to Phase 3 with On-Field Practice/9-Man Flag Football. That includes helmet-only sessions, running full practices involving learning concepts and schemes. The flag football games will give the players an opportunity to be competitive in a game atmosphere while allowing players and coaches the chance to continue developing in their respective positions.
Eventually, when contact is allowed, Phase 4 will include Team Intrasquad games complete with referees, stick crew and hopefully some fans to mimic a regular season game.
Returning to play in the Ontario Football Conference is Phase 5 for the Skyhawks and Phase 6 includes a Regional Jamboree Tournament.
“Like every sport, it’s just trying to provide some kind of normalcy and hope for these kids to get back engaged with the sport they love to play,” Gabriel said. “We’re just going to follow the protocols set by Football Canada and as protocols change and hopefully things begin to open up, we’ll act accordingly.”
Meanwhile, registration will be open soon for the Skyhawks Flag Football program, which begins in August and continues through the end of October. Divisions are available for Tyke (ages 7-8), Atom (9-10), Peewee (11-12), Bantam (13-14) and Junior (15-17). The organization also offers a Li’l Hawks Football Introduction Program for Jr. Tyke (ages 4-6). The program runs for eight weeks starting in August and offers a great opportunity for boys and girls to learn the fundamentals of football. The Li’l Hawks will be shown how to catch, throw, kick and run with the football while having a ton of fun.
“Parents are wanting to get their kids active again, so they’ve been asking,” Gabriel said.
“We started doing it about three years ago, we introduced it to the younger kids. Our bantam program doesn’t start until Grade 7 so there was nothing before that. The advantage of flag, for little kids and big kids, they’re all on the same level playing field. They all have an opportunity to try it. Flag gives that opportunity where everyone can try every position.”
Gabriel noted an Ontario Flag Football League has started and will become available for players from U10 to U20.
“They’ll have the opportunity to play a rep style level football if they want to, especially if there’s no tackle this year,” he said. “They’ll have a regional tournament and a provincial tournament.”