I recently had the chance to sit down with the head coach of the Niagara Storm bantam (ages 13-14) youth football team, Marcus Stake, to discuss his team’s progress to date, as well as his recent transition into a brand new organization/league. Enjoy!
James Ryan (JR): Hi Coach, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. How are practices going?
Marcus Stake (MS) : Practices are going very well, James. We have some really good athletes and they’re all working hard. I can’t wait to get the pads on them and see what we’re really working with. I’m excited about the balance that we have across the board. I seriously think this might be the most balanced team that I’ve ever coached. I think we could very well end up being one of the most balanced offensive teams in the entire OFC bantam division. We have a quarterback that can throw, and at least two wide receivers that are 5’10 with good speed and hands. We have a good group of backs as well. It’s hard to get a really good sense for our defense in the gym though. But like I said, I can’t wait to get the pads on them.
JR: Yes, getting the pads on will be a definite plus in evaluating the defense. But it sounds like you’ve got a got a great group of players so far. This year represents a big change for you and your coaching staff. In previous years, you were all coaching in the NRMFA and you even sat in on their executive board. What has been the biggest surprise or challenge since you have joined the Storm?
MS: It is definitely a big and welcome change for us. We wanted to challenge ourselves by taking advantage of the opportunity to coach a team in the OFC. In joining the Storm, I have been very pleased to see the co-operation that exists in this organization. It’s nice to see everybody working together towards a common goal. In my experience as a board member of the NRMFA, that direction was not always clear.
JR: You had a record setting day for any Storm team on the first day of recruitment. The response by both players and parents was amazing. But with so many options for young football players these days, particularly in the Niagara Region, why have you been able to achieve such great success at this level? In other words, what are your coaching philosophies and what can players expect from you as a coach?
MS: I think a lot of our success in recruiting has to do with the reputation that we have worked very hard to establish. We are well aware of the life lessons that can be learned by playing the game of football. We show the players that we care about them more than just as another chess piece to help us win a game. We tell the players that we evaluate our success based on our growth. We don’t care where we start, but we always want to make sure that we finish better than where we began. We evaluate that growth, not only as a player, but as a person. We realize that winning is never the goal, but rather a by-product of the hard work put in by all those who associate themselves with the team. In a word, what really matters the most to our parents and players, is that we care.
JR: Well said, Coach. What would you recommend to any potential players who were still thinking about joining the Storm but might be unsure? Are they able to attend a couple of practices first to see what it’s like? Where are your practices currently being held and when?
MS: I would absolutely recommend that they come out to a practice or two and try us out without any obligation. We’ve already had a couple of players do that, and I’m happy to say that they liked what they saw and registered with the Storm. We are currently running indoor practices at Oakridge Public School in St Catharines on Monday nights from 6:30-7:45 p.m. and on Friday nights from 7:30-8:45 p.m.
JR: Sounds great. I appreciate your time and I wish the Storm bantam team every success this year. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention to the readers at this time?
MS: Thank you. I just want to thank the Storm for this opportunity and I’m really glad to be a part of an organization that puts the players first. And I also wanted to say that I think you will do an excellent job with your new position as the OFC Media Coordinator. I’m glad that they have given you the freedom to be yourself. I always admired the fact that you don’t sit on the fence. You’re not afraid to state the facts and to voice your opinion with complete conviction. I know you’ve faced your share of criticism and ridicule as a result of this. I may not always agree with you, but I always respect your opinion. I just wanted to encourage you to keep fighting the good fight.
JR: Thanks Marcus! Much appreciated.