Several Stettler football players had the opportunity to represent the province in games south of the border at the end of February.
The Stettler players were all members of the Alberta Selects football team, a winter development program recently brought to the province by coach and director Travis Hertz.
According to Hertz, the Alberta Selects program is based on a similar program he found in Saskatchewan when he was looking for football development opportunities for his own son.
After travelling to Saskatchewan one winter for the program, Hertz concluded that “our province needs this.”
“More than my son could benefit from this,” said Hertz, when reflecting on bringing the program to Alberta.
Unfortunately, the program was to be launched in 2020, right when COVID-19 was beginning to sweep across the world and the first of many lock-downs began to take effect.
“That whole year we were pretty close to giving up,” said Hertz.
However, instead of giving up Hertz and the other directors stayed the course and got a season going in the fall of 2021 with a Varsity U14 team and half a U12 team taking to the field.
Those teams ended up travelling to San Antonio, Texas, to play against teams from Canada, the United States and Mexico.
In 2022-23, more players meant more teams were built with three travelling to San Antonio from Feb. 24-26. A fourth team travelled previously to Las Vegas.
According to Hertz, one team won two of three games in San Antonio, while the U14 and U15 teams “did pretty good” as well.
“The camp is built around winter development with committed, passionate players,” said Hertz.
“It’s a passionate group of people.”
The Alberta Selects program starts at the end of the high school football season, around the end of November, and runs through to the end of February and focuses on the fundamentals of the game such as running, blocking, and tackling.
Hertz says that there is in between 50 and 70-hours of practise that takes place in the months the program runs broken up into 10 hours a weekend, every second weekend.
“All the kids that have gone through the camp have gotten better,” said Hertz.
Around 180 players signed up for the 2022-23 Selects camp; seven of them came from Stettler.
“The size of Stettler, it’s a pretty amazing feat,” said Hertz.
“Stettler has got some really good football players.”
Fundamentals of the game aren’t the only benefits of joining the Selects program.
In June coaching staff take a group of players for a tour of U.S. colleges and make introductions to the football coaches of those schools, according to Hertz.
Hertz does note that “you can’t play football without the grades,” and that players need to be students first and players second. But, the tours still get the student athletes on the radar of the various schools.
With the San Antonio tournament done and the program winding down, the next activity for the team is a banquet on March 16.
Even though the Selects program is near the end for the season, the program continues to run identification camps to pick out players for the next season. The next identification tryout camp takes place in Calagry March 18 and 19.
For more information on the Alberta Selects football program, check out selectsfootballab.com.