WINNIPEG — When looking at Team Manitoba’s under-18 roster for the 2016 football Canada Cup, there’s one stat that immediately pops out: the amount of players that train with Recruit Ready. The all-year program was started in 2013 by former Manitoba Bison football players Brad Black and Blaire Atkinson.
“The goal was to give Winnipeg football players an opportunity to work more on their skill development throughout the winter, because we just don’t play enough games of football during the season here,” Black said.
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A total of 26 out of the 40 players selected to Manitoba’s roster currently train with Recruit Ready, as do many CIS athletes and CFLers such as Sturgeon Heights alumni Anthony Coombs (Toronto) and Kienan LaFrance (Ottawa), as well as Oak Park grad Nic Demski (Saskatchewan).
Recruit Ready’s program is catered to the specific athlete, offering a unique and valuable platform to prepare for the upcoming football season. Each participant begins in January, with the high school players doing three days of on-field work while the CFL players take to the indoor turf four times a week. Everything is run in the morning before school, which Black says weens out the kids that don’t want to be there.
At the end of April, the pros head back to their specific teams, while the amateur players transition to seven-on-seven tournaments both in Canada and the states.
“When you play on our seven-on-seven team, you get the chance to play against the best high school players in the United States, and when you go against that level of talent, it just elevates your game,” Black said.
Once the Canada Cup ends in July, Recruit Ready starts back up again on a five-day-a-week basis, which gets the CIS and high school players ready for the regular season in August.
While the program has only been around for three seasons, it’s already seen a handful of players get the opportunity to play NCAA Division 1 football. Almost every CIS school also bolsters at least one Recruit Ready athlete.
While the accolades are appreciated, Black says Recruit Ready is still all about player development and future success on the gridiron.