B.C. high school football season is just around the corner and the future is looking bright for Ballenas Secondary School’s senior and junior varsity football teams.
Jeremy Conn will be at the helm leading the boys in blue when they hit the gridiron August 13.
He is taking over as head coach of the team that was led by Sean Hines over the last 13 years.
Conn is a middle school teacher in District 69. Prior to teaching here, he did a two year stint as head coach of West Vancouver Secondary School’s triple-A football team.
Conn who was the assistant head coach of the Whalers for the past three years said although Hines’ shoes will be hard to fill he is looking forward to some exciting hard-nosed football.
He agreed the vacancy left by Hines and his wife Linda, who was also committed to the club, has left the football club with some new challenges, but he, along with the Whalers Society, is ready to move forward.
“Losing Sean and Linda hurts, but there are a lot of people who have come and gone and I am excited to keep building on what is there. I think we have really strong teams this year,” he stated.
He said there is a long standing tradition that goes along with the Whalers Society and the football program that has been built over the years is as solid as ever.
“It is a strong, positive sense of community. Football has more guys on the team than other any other sport in the school,” Conn pointed out.
“There are also kids who help out as managers and trainers and there are volunteers. It is a big program and it gets a lot of people involved and I think kids develop friendships that last them a lifetime. Some of my best friends are the guys I played football with or I coached football with and these are guys that you learn to count on and you know they are going to be there for you.
“It is not just a flash in the pan relationship. You go through a lot together … some highs and lows and you are going to become young men together.”
Conn indicated there is definitely room for more players on the roster.
“Currently both teams are around the low twenties and ideally we want mid to high twenties for numbers. If we can get more kids who are serious about playing football that would be great.”
When asked what it takes to be a Whaler, Conn said there are of attributes that come into play.
“It helps to be big. It helps to be fast … we have some real speedy guys. It helps to be strong. We have kids who are gym rats and work out … but commitment … that is what we have on our shirts this year. If you don’t have guys that are committed, you can make mistakes because you missed a practice and it’s usually a silly little thing that we have gone over,” Conn emphasized.
He said hustle, determination and drive are other attributes that come with the territory.
“There’s got to be some intensity so you have to have a tough heart and it is not always how big you are but how tough you are,” he advised.
He said knowing what to do is also a key component to the game.
“There’s a saying that if you are fast but fast going the wrong way that doesn’t do you any good.”
He acknowledged another big one they talk about is competition.
“A lot of teams on the Island have gone tier two, which means that there is triple-A which are the big schools, double-A which are the medium size schools and tier two, which isn’t the small schools but the ones that are not ready to compete at the level they should be competing. It could be because of coaches, because of numbers or whatever and with us we want to be able to compete with the best,” he insisted.
The Whalers compete in the double-A division, as do Nanaimo schools John Barsby and Nanaimo District Secondary School. Conn said they will stay double-A for now and if numbers go up, they will move to triple-A.
Conn noted that while some former Whalers have gone on to play pro football, there are not a lot of them that make a living at it so having a strong academic background is something the club encourages.
“I like to think football is like chess and we have a complex play book and the problem is you are dealing with human error. I love the strategy part of the game and the kids have to be smart but there is a brute force that is also part of the game,” he agreed and added,
“Realistically most of these kids are going to go farther with their grades than they are with football.”
He also observed that Whaler team etiquette results in a higher standard of behaviour and leadership on and off the field and being part of the Whaler community in some cases results in fewer students dropping out of school.
He said the Whalers do a lot of fundraisers and look to the community for donations to keep the program going and parents must also contribute volunteer hours.
For those families requiring financial assistance there are grants available from the KidSport BC program by registering at the Society of Organized Services.
The first no-gear practice begins August 13 and full gear starts August 20.
Practices are from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at Ballenas Secondary School.
For more information e-mail coach Conn at firstname.lastname@example.org.