Canada Cup serves as high performance pathway to international play
Photo credit – USA Football
Canada’s Junior National Team coaching staff gathered at the 2015 edition of the Football Canada Cup under-18 national championship to identify players for the 2016 IFAF U-19 World Championship.
“Looking into the 2016 tournament this [current] U-18 age group will be the younger end of tournament and obviously a very, very talented group,” said Junior National Team head coach, Warren Craney. “They were a group that dominated for us in the Kuwait tournament [2014 World Championship] so we’d expect no less from this group. We’ve attended every province’s practices and we’ve evaluated all the games and rosters with the help of their [provincial team’s] coaching staff.”
“We’re allowed to bring in kids born in 1997 and ‘98 to the world championships in 2016. Right now, we’re in the process of selecting the all-star team that will have the opportunity to go and compete in the International Bowl in January or February of 2016 for the U-18 squad. The Canada Cup is a chance for us as a staff to identify kids that are 98’s that we feel have the ability to help us in the world championship,” said offensive coordinator, Joe D’Amore.
“In terms of today’s football player, we’re looking for a lot out of them; we want the whole package. There are kids that are just going to be great football players but we’re looking for more than that. We’re looking for kids that are great football players but also have the aptitude and are willing to learn and have the ability to adapt on the fly,” said Craney.
From a coordinators point of view the job gets even more challenging because they must not only project players a year from now but select players that fit their schemes.
“Right now, we’re just trying to identify as an offence, systematically who’s going to fit what we want to do. At the same time, we’re looking at who can really play and who can compete against the U.S., and these types of teams at a high level and could help us potentially win a gold medal,” explained D’Amore.
Building a true national team program
The coaching staff’s job is far from over once they’ve identified a core group of players. Building a program means that they’re looking to not only identify but also foster athlete’s development.
“Through Football Canada, we’re connecting with these players through e-mail and phone,” D’Amore said. “Once they’ve been identified from this year’s Canada Cup and from the previous year’s International Bowl which would be our 97’s, we’ll reach out to them and stay in constant communication, asking them how their training is going, injuries and all that kind of stuff.”
It’s important for the coaching staff to keep in contact with the core group of Team Canada hopefuls.
“If you don’t touch base with them over the next 6 months and then all of a sudden the International Bowl comes around, you contact them and you find that they’ve been injured for four months and they haven’t really been training,” said D’Amore.
“We might be bringing in a kid we felt was outstanding in the summer but when we get to the event, he’s not up to speed. I think it’s really important that once we identify them to keep in constant contact and see where their head’s at; if they are really working hard to be part of this national team or if they are kind of going through the motions. I think if we continue to do that we’ll get the best 45 guys to give us the best shot to win.”
Not only will these athletes be in communication with their coaches but they will also be working with the team’s strength and conditioning coach.
“At this age (17-18) what can happen in 10 months to their bodies in terms of their maturation is just incredible,” Craney explained. “Off the field stuff like strength and conditioning is instrumental to our program. They’re at an age right now where they’re going to probably make the most gains ever in their training. In terms of their maturation they’re not at their peak core strength but they’re at their peak gains.”
“With the help of the national team strength and conditioning coach, we’re going to follow these kids and we’re going to make sure that they’re training the proper way. We’re going to make sure they’re training our way; following our development plan to assure us that we’re more than competitive and competing for that gold medal when it counts in 2016.”
Being an identified player not only helps the team but for those who might not travel to the world championship, the training and consultation can help them excel early on in their careers to help reach the next level.
“It’s funny, you’ve put that 17-year-old kid in the gym for the first time and two months later he’s seeing the improvements he’s made and speaks to his confidence. Then you’ve got him hooked on the strength training,” explained long-time national team coach, Warren Craney. “I think that’s the difference between football and other sports. I don’t think football’s made to be played 12 months of the year but the development; the body maturation and the training that is something that is becoming 12 months of the year. The core development and training that we can provide for them through the national team program is going to be an essential building block for their career.”
International Bowl: two teams, one goal
Canada will field both an under-18 and under-19 national team which will compete against the U.S. at the 2016 International Bowl in Texas. The U-18 will comprise standouts from the 2015 Canada Cup while the U-19 squad will feature some Canada Cup all-stars from last year that will return to the International Bowl in addition to some try-out camp standouts.
“Our ultimate goal is to get the best football players from Canada to the International Bowl. It’s our ultimate goal to have all that talent pool all in one place and at the same time help us select the team that’s going to help us represent in the 2016 tournament.”
For Canada, the International Bowl will help the squad acclimate to the American game.
“Those International Bowl experiences of playing American football against Team USA are something that you can’t put a price-tag on from the standpoint of what it means to this program and these kids,” explained Craney. “In the end, football’s football but there’s a lot of nuances to the U.S. game that take some getting used to; from the size of the field to going down from 12 to 11 men [on the field] as well as taking away the yard [between the offensive and defensive lines]. There are nuances and being able to play those friendlies going into the tournament helps this team so much and their confidence.”
Canada’s under-18 national team will be announced in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more details!
This post is also available in: French