The London Beefeaters open their Mini Camp on Sunday at Citywide Field with a number of fresh faces.
First year head coach Chris Marshall is among the fresh faces stepping away from his role of primarily x’s and o’s and focusing on the big picture. “This camp is really important for us as a program and a coaching staff to introduce ourselves to prospective players and show them what our program has to offer,” says Marshall. “We want to be able to coach and guide the players along whatever path they want in football.”
Marshall is expecting to see between 45-60 players in camp, mostly their skill positions. They are made up of around 20 veterans with the rest being new recruits and prospects. One of the most encouraging signs is the fact that some players are coming in from as far away as three hours to showcase their skills.
“We are really excited in anticipation for our inter-conference game with the Calgary Colts. For many of our players, it will be the first time they've played outside of Ontario. The CJFL brand is so big out west I am excited to show our guys how good the CJFL is.”
He talks about his main goal, “Our main goal as a coaching staff this year is to build a program that will have sustained success and get better year over year. We've made it a huge initiative to build the brand within the community, partner with the local community programs and high school programs. Results have already started coming in. We've partnered with the Jr. Mustangs to run a golf tournament this summer and many of our coaches are guest coaching with the community teams and high school teams. We really want to build pride in being a London Beefeater within our community.”
Like all CJFL head coaches, recruiting is one of, if not the most important piece in their job description. Marshall says it’s been a huge job for him, “I have only lived in London a little over three years so I am still building my connections within the city but every day it seems that we are stepping one foot closer in the right direction so I am really happy with our progress so far.”
The transition to a head coach has been a learning curve for Marshall, one that he has enjoyed and has taken some important steps to surround himself with the right kind of coaches, “That's why it was very important for me to get some coordinators I could really trust in Kyle Cole (Offensive Coordinator) and Tim Thomson (Defensive Coordinator). To prepare, I spent a few weeks out with the Saskatchewan Roughriders guest coaching and scouting this winter/spring and was able to really pick the brain of a few guys with OFC/CJFL experience (Craig Davoren - Burlington Braves & Ed Phillion - Windsor AKO Fratmen) and get some guidance on how to build successful programs. I've also been able to gets some guidance and recruiting help from former Beefeater players/coaches who now coach at Western University (Steve Snyder, JP Circelli and Joe Circelli).”
Despite the graduation of some of their Ontario Conference All-Stars from a year ago, the Beefeaters still return a core group including team MVP Cam Geddes. “We'll have about 20-25 returning vets but it will be the new faces that bring this team together and lead them for the next few years,” says Marshall. “We are going to go into 2017 with a lot of youth but because of the quality of the community and high school programs within the London area (considered one of the premiere regions for football in Ontario) and our relationship with the Western University football program and the resources they offer, we feel confident the players will adapt and thrive nice and quickly.”
The Beefeaters open the 2017 CJFL season on Sunday August 20th on the road at GTA when they face the Grizzlies at Centennial Stadium.