Canadian Football – Practice
Although Canadians love their hockey, in many parts of Canada football is very popular. I had the pleasure of running a coaching clinic near Vancouver last week and then had the privilege of leading a practice for a grade 5-6 group the following evening.
It all started a few years ago when a trainer by the name of Terry Hamilton introduced the single-wing offense to British Columbia and the Vancouver area. Terry’s team went 16-0 that season and won the coveted provincial championship. Others took note of Terry’s success and the following year there were about 25 Canadian coaches at my Seattle coaching clinic. The following season, Terry’s team went undefeated again and won the provincial championship, winning the title game 72-14. The real surprise this season was the Chilliwack Giants, who shocked everyone by making the playoffs to their first-ever provincial title in grade 5-6. Chilliwack is the team that came down to Nebraska and played us last season, Single Wing versus Single Wing.
Lawrence Smith, the organizer of this trip to Chilliwack, graciously invited my family to stay with them, run a coaching clinic, and spend time with his family in the incredible beauty and friendliness of British Columbia. They almost seem to take for granted the magnificent views of the snow capped mountains that you can see from their backyards. The same goes for a huge, breathtaking waterfall and state park with signs to watch for bears just 5 minutes from their home. Another 10 minutes away we spent some time in a quaint mountain village with a public swimming area and some great local dairy and ice cream. More on that later, let’s talk about some nuances and changes that make sense for Canadian youth football.
The Canadians play on a larger field, the Canadian playing field is 110 meters long by 65 meters wide, rather than 100 meters long by 53â … “wide like in American football. The end zones Canadians are 10 meters deeper than the Americans, the Canadians are only allowed 3 tries to make a first down and the defense must line up at least 1 meter from the line of scrimmage.
Chilliwack Offensive Coordinator Lawrence Smith pointed out this difference and then asked why we gave up when we were shooting. We abandon the step both to create space for the shooter lineman to shoot, but also to open his hips in the direction he is running, while keeping the shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage so that the extractor can spy on the linebacker he is trying to block. Since there is a full court between the offensive and defensive linemen, there really is no need to create space and the footwork for the traction may need to be rethought. In American football, our linemen are a bit behind and we are still able to play on the defensive side of the ball thanks to superior technique and the meticulous work we put in to get our first 2 steps down faster than our opponents. But with a full meter of space, does a fall stage still make sense? I’m still debating that one.
One point which does not need to be discussed is the angle of attack of the offensive lines. In the United States, we preach an inner first step at a 30 degree angle. But since the Canadians have this one-meter cushion, I found the angle of attack needed to be adjusted a bit. Using the GOD rule, the ‘interior space’ assignment block was to be made at a 45 degree angle of attack for the first 2 steps, while the ‘walk’ assignment was to be made at an angle of approximately 60 degrees. Some things that you just can’t solve without having some hands-on experience in the field.
The wider field makes the pressure-free option on the Spinner 26 or Flash 26 a game that makes a lot of sense and these kids performed it really well. Canadians also allow you to move multiple players and the movement can be towards the line of scrimmage. If I were a coach in Canada, that would mean a series where 2 full backs were moving downhill in opposite directions meshing towards a rotating full back.
Hats off to the Chilliwack organization and team. They showed up in force to train despite the whole region being in a frenzy over the Vancouver Canucks NHL team playing on TV at the same time we were training. Vancouver is trying to win its first-ever Stanley Cup, and over 50,000 people watched the game in downtown Vancouver on giant outdoor screens. Each house in each neighborhood seemed to have 5-6 cars parked in the driveway, coming together to watch the game. Yet that pocket of dedicated football enthusiasts showed up ready to train and we chased them. Thanks again to all the great people in the Chilliwack area, great football and great friendly footballers.