If you’re a football player or the parent of a football player every off-season you’ve probably had the debate on what should you focus on and where you should spend your hard earned money. Should you spend the off-season playing Summer football? Focus on training and honing your skills on the 7 on 7 circuit? Or should you focus on exposure by attending camps and combines? Depending on where you are in the recruiting process and where you want to go each choice has its benefits and drawbacks.
Summer football is some of the best football you can play in Canada whether it’s OVFL, OFC or the Canada Cup it will have some of the best coaching and best competition anywhere in Canada. For any player with aspirations with playing in the CIS playing in the Canada Cup or a summer league in Ontario can be the single best recruiting exposure tool for you.
With the high school season so short in Canada, summer football gives athletes a longer season and more opportunities learn the game of football in a live setting. This can be critical for some players that lack a high school program or play on a weak team, this high level of football will only get you better.
If your goal is to play in NCAA summer football can also help. Along with excellent coaching and competition summer football is going to give you solid film to show to coaches what you can do. Most Ontario high school film we see really lacks in terms of film quality and coaches can’t make a solid assessment on a player after watching it. With OVFL and OFC typically the quality of film produced is much better.
Summer football is however played during prime NCAA recruiting season as all universities host their summer camps during June and July, which can pose a challenge for athletes that have responsibilities with their summer team but also have aspirations to play at the NCAA level. Many athletes will have to work around games to maximize their chances of performing in front of NCAA coaches in an effort to earn a scholarship.
Training & 7 on 7 Football
7 on 7 has exploded in recent years and we are huge fans of it because we think it is critical in developing our skill players without the grind of tackling each week. Although hitting is essential to playing football we think the mental aspect of the game is just as important. WRs learn route running and how route combinations can get them open. DBs learn coverages and how to read what an offence is trying to do. QBs learn to read defences while focusing on mechanics, timing and delivery. The list goes on and on as to how much a player can learn without having to tackle each week. For OL and DL these programs are great in helping them develop their bodies and improve on their athleticism during the off-season.
There are some great training and 7 on 7 programs across Canada that help prepare athletes for the mental side of the game as well as develop their bodies so they can dominate on the field. Another big advantage of 7 on 7 is the fact that they typically travel and play against some of the best competition in North America. 7 on 7 is also a great exposure tool for athletes looking to play in the NCAA as media sites like Bleacher Report, 247 Sports, Rivals and Scout.com can be in attendance evaluating your performance. If you look at the last few years any skill position player that has earned a NCAA scholarship in Canada has most likely dabbled in training and 7 on 7 for their off-season regimen. Here is a list of a few programs across Canada to check out:
IDFFL — GTA
Kingdom Force — Toronto Area
Gridiron Academy — Ottawa
Recruit Ready — Manitoba
Air Raid Academy — British Columbia
Combines & Camps
Combines give talent evaluators and coaches the ability to verify or question what they see on film. Players often exaggerate statistics and testing results, a good combine will provide verified numbers for coaches to use in the evaluation process. Thousands of athletes compete for scholarships each year and for a lot of them good film isn’t enough. Sometimes its their size, speed or strength that could potentially play a part in allowing one athlete to separate from the competition.
Combines can be great exposure events for athletes looking to play in the NCAA as it can allow them to build their name to various media sites and potentially catch the ear of coaches. Nike Opening Regionals and Rivals Camps are great events for players to make a name for themselves. The competition at these combines is extremely high as you actually have to be invited to attend.
When we started Top Prospects Canada we focused solely on being a medium between coaches and athletes through our free recruiting profiles that allow coaches the ability to search our database to find qualified student athletes. As we started to grow we starting to get more and more inquiries about how tall, how fast and how strong prospects really were.
To better help these coaches we decided to run the Elite Combine Series. ECS gives athletes a chance to get verified numbers so that when a coach ask how fast a particular player is we can give them an honest answer. The success of ECS has been tremendous with coaches in Canada and the US. After seeing the size, speed and film of Canadian athletes more and more coaches have expressed interest in evaluating these prospects in person.
This year we launched the NCAA Exposure Camp a chance for athletes in Canada to perform in front of NCAA coaches without having to travel out of the country. More and more NCAA coaches are making the camp setting a vital step in the evaluation process and won’t extend an offer to a player unless they can see them in person.
There are many other camps sometimes hosted at major universities that can provide the same kind of exposure for athletes to NCAA coaches. We always recommend camps that have multiple coaches in attendance so that you can get the best bang for your buck. Some camps we really like are: Michigan University, Boston College and the NW Elite Football Camp. Attending a camp at a university in the CIS or NCAA gives you a chance to meet the coaching staff, see the university and tour the facilities. Doing all this gives you a good perspective on if you can spend the next 4 or 5 years at a particular school and play for their program.
There is no clear cut answer as to what to do in a particular off-season, for most it will be a combination of all 3 but at the very least 2 of the 3. The high school season in Canada is extremely short and most players can benefit from playing a few more games, with that being said the off-season should be dedicated into developing your mental capacity for the game, as well as getting bigger, faster and stronger along with refining your techniques. With all those games and all that training you need to spend some time building a name for yourself. Always compile a highlight tape. Show off your training and get verified testing results by attending a good combine. The final step is to show coaches what you can do in person by attending a camp.
For Canadian football players it truly takes a village to build an elite prospect. Every aspect plays an important role in your development at different times. Depending on what your end goal is and how far you want to go with football it becomes a balancing act of how to manage and prioritize one aspect over the other. Speak to your camp directors, coaches and trainers let them know your dreams and aspirations. If they truly care about your development and want the best for you they will work with you to help you get there.
What are your goals for football and what are you doing this off-season to get there? Let us know in the comments below