New Valley Huskers bench boss Adam Smith has spent the last few months telling anyone who’ll listen that things are different.
That he’s passionate and committed to building a football team that inspires pride on and off the field.
That the days of being the BC Football Conference punching bag are coming to an end.
He’s also said, all along, that words mean nothing and people will only believe it when they see it.
Spring camp (May 2-4) is his first chance to prove that things are changing, and he’s starting with the theory that bigger isn’t necessarily better.
“We’re going a little smaller this year, not inviting as many kids up,” the coach said. “We want more interaction with the players who do come. We’ve got a lot more parents coming up this year as well, and what we want is more one on one meetings with them.”
That’s a switch.
In year’s past, coaches used numbers as a gauge for success. More players at spring camp meant recruiting had gone well.
“Instead of bringing out 90 and signing 20, we’re looking at 55-60 kids with the hope of signing 40-45 of them,” Smith said. “The individual meetings are the big thing, to see how they feel about us and let them know how we feel about them. And we want their parents to be a big part of this.”
Smith has spent much of his offseason on local recruiting, developing a network of contacts in Abbotsford, Mission and surrounding areas.
“Considering how bad our past has been, we’ve gotten a much better response from the local kids than we thought we would,” Smith said. “I thought we were about a year away from that, that we needed to show them something first.”
Rather than hide from the team’s dismal history, Smith and Husker general manager Moe Agagnier have tackled it head on.
“Myself and Moe sit down and we address all of the bad stuff players and parents may have heard about,” Smith said. “But then we go on, tell them about our plan and passion, and how we’ll change things to finally be successful. Some parents and players think something special is starting out here, and some are still iffy. And that’s understandable, because we haven’t done anything yet.”
With so much bad perception to overcome, Smith could be forgiven for kowtowing to prospects — begging them to give Chilliwack a chance.
He doesn’t do that.
Smith said he’s already turned away promising recruits because he didn’t believe their intentions were true.
“Are you coming here because you can’t go anywhere else, ‘So let’s come to Chilliwack. At least I can make that team,’” Smith asked. “We don’t want that kind of attitude coming in. I get emails from some players that are basically, ‘What can you do for me if I come out to play?’ I’ve sent a few emails back asking, ‘What can you do for us?’
As much as he’s enjoyed his first real foray into recruiting, Smith’s looks forward to being on the field. He expects to learn a lot as putting prospects through their paces.
The compressed nature of spring camp, with three practices and a scrimmage, makes it easy to pick out two types.
“You’ll see the high football IQ guys who may not be the best athletes, but they catch on to systems right away and don’t make mistakes,” Smith said. “And you’ll be able to spot the athletes right away. They may not learn as quick, but you’ll see him making plays because he’s quicker, faster, stronger.”
Smith hopes to spot a third group, the natural leaders.
“He’ll do anything to help his team win,” Smith said, describing the type he calls diamonds in the rough. “He’s at practice first. Leaves last. Knows the playbook inside and out. He may not be the best player, but he’s the type who gets respect. Every team needs some of those.”
Get Huskers info online at valleyhuskers.org and contact Smith by email firstname.lastname@example.org