WESTLOCK – The Westlock Thunderbirds football team is putting out the call region-wide for players in Grades 7-12, with a planned night of seven-on-seven games slated for tomorrow, Aug. 3, that will also serve as the final day for registration.
Thunderbirds head coach Jon Kramer said they want the Tuesday-nigth drop-in event, which starts at 6 p.m. on the east fields at R.F. Staples School, to be not only a homecoming for the vets who saw little playing time last fall, but an introduction to the sport for newcomers. Main camp for the club is slated to open Aug. 20.
“It’s open to everyone, no football experience is necessary. In part it’s facilitating a bit of a reunion for the kids who have already played before and registered, but we also hope they invite their friends who haven’t played before and just want to try it out,” said Kramer.
The team not only includes Westlock-area youth, but players from Barrhead and even Athabasca, which hasn’t fielded a football program for at least the last five years. As for this first event Kramer said the kids won’t be donning full gear while playing seven aside.
“We’ve had Barrhead and Athabasca kids in the past so this event also allows them a chance to get to know each other. It’s a bit of a bonding night for them,” he continued.
As for the coming season Kramer said they’re eyeing a nine-on-nine format — a change they would have been forced to make regardless as the rules surrounding 12-on-12 will be changing in 2022 forcing teams to have 30 players on the sidelines.
“If that change comes to pass there’ll be quite a few programs around the province that won’t qualify for 12-aside and then they’ll have to transition to nine aside. For us this is getting a head start as we’re not sure what our numbers are going to be like this year,” Kramer said.
“Nine aside is still really good football with pretty much the same rules but with a few little modifications. It’s what we ran last fall so we’re excited to give it another shot.”
As far as fees, bantam-aged players in Grades 7-9 can practice with the club, but can’t suit up for games and will be charged $200 for the year. Meanwhile senior high players will be charged $300 for the season, although if there are two kids from the same household the fee drops to $550 for both — for more check out https://westlocktbirds.com.
“We’re trying to make it accessible for kids and enticing for parents and then see where we land this year,” he continued. “I know there are quite a few kids who have gotten jobs, or are doing other things, so I think the numbers for athletics are going to be a lot smaller, at least at the beginning.”