It has been a chaotic offseason for Bob Reist, football boss of the Valley Huskers, and it’s not over yet.
Tuesday morning Reist confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic is putting the kibosh on the B.C. Football Conference team’s spring camp. The camp is an important evaluation tool for football ops, letting Reist and his coaching staff get a live look at players who are on the recruiting radar.
“That’s something that came down from the league, and obviously with the things that are going on in society right now it’s something we’re in total agreement with,” Reist said. “But it is disappointing because we use that time to evaluate and the players are evaluating us and our program, so it’s changed the way we’re recruiting this year.”
In a regular year, Reist said he’d have several ‘on the fence’ players he’d invite to spring camp so both sides could “check things out.”
Instead, he’s focusing on players who’ve expressed a strong desire to be in Chilliwack this summer.
“We are really hammering the emails and the phone calls and the social media,” Reist said. “The bright side of all this is we are getting to know the players a lot better that we did in the past. There are more conversations because the kids are really wanting to know they’re going to the right spot. So it is a blessing that way, but there are hardships as well.”
Proper scouting is difficult to do at the best of times. All football players have film, but what can you really tell from a highlight reel?
No one’s sending Reist a lowlight reel.
“That is misleading at points because obviously you’re putting your best plays on film,” he said. “So it’s a lot of talking to coaches, and not just talking to the player but talking to the people around the player. Talent wise, I think we have a pretty good finger on who we’re bringing in, so the big focus is who we’re bringing in character wise.”
Reist doesn’t plan to release any names until after the Canadian Junior Football League signing day on June 1, but he said he has 35 new commitments (and counting) and called his offensive line class “undoubtedly” the best the team has recruited during his tenure. If it’s true that football games are won and lost in the trenches, he feels the 2020 Huskers will be in good shape.
“I really like our class this year,” Reist said. “We are excited because we have some really good kids coming in.”
Assuming of course they play any games.
The Huskers usually get rolling with training camp in July and start playing games in August.
“It changes every week, and three or four weeks ago I would have been pretty pessimistic,” Reist said. “But at this point I’m fairly optimistic. One thing I know is that it’ll take community involvement and support to make it happen this year and make sure this sport is there for kids.”
There was a ton of change on the Huskers board over the winter, with old faces out and several new faces in.
Brenda Currie is no longer president. She resigned and her former vice president, Jean Hincks, has stepped in to replace her.
The new-look board includes several names that will be familiar to Chilliwack Giants followers.
The full executive includes Tom Caverley (vice president/fundraising), Rhonda Laszlo (secretary), Drew Saunders (equipment manager), Ian Parks (registrar), Amber McKay (social media/billets), Sean Dallas (fundraising), Irene Spalding (food), Geoff Sache (fields) and Dick Harrington (trainers).
“It’s been a roller coast offseason in that department,” Reist noted. “We’ve added some good structure, and the people we’ve brought in are football people who have a good understanding of what the team needs to run at this level.
“It’s not just coaching and players. You need football minds at that upper level to help make decisions, and many of these people come with a wealth of experience and ties to a Chilliwack Giants organization that has been well run for a long time.”