Long winters put high school athletes hoping to play at the next level at a disadvantage. This year’s linger cold weather and snow is doing even more to keep college prospects off the field.
With limited opportunities, football players from New England are often overshadowed as others grab the national spotlight such as the U.S. Army All American Bowl.
“Kids in the Northeast are at disadvantage when it comes to playing in these national events,” said Joe Bouffard of Stratford, director of player development for the Northeast for All American Games, which operates the U.S. Army All American Bowl and Football University. “Kids down south have already been in 7-on-7 showcases. They can go compete against other 2-, 3-, 4-star kids.”
Bouffard said he saw that first-hand recruiting for the Army All American Bowl.
A remedy for the situation comes Saturday, April 12, with the Connecticut Football Showcase, held at the Connecticut Sportsplex in North Branford. Registration starts at 11 a.m., with the showcase from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Interested players can register at fairfieldcountynff.org <http://fairfieldcountynff.org> .
The showcase is presented by – and benefits – the Desantis/McDougall Chapter and Casey O’Brien Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
“I wanted to give back to football in the state,” Bouffard said of the National Football Foundation, which will hold its scholarship banquet in April. This is the only showcase benefiting the foundation
“This is the only one in Connecticut,” Bouffard said. “There’s one in Rhode Island that’s not affiliated with the National Football Foundation. One is Westchester is free for athletes to get testing and measurables.”
The Westchester Clinic, Bouffard explained, will give athletes a chance to see where they stand with other athletes in their grade level in the 40-yard dash, standing broad jump and other tests.
The event will also expose players to the recruiting experience.
“I’ve invited college coaches and two other recruiting services, Northeast Gridiron Promotions and each athlete who attends gets a profile on XOs Digital.
Players will also be competing for other opportunities. The most valuable player in the Class of 2016 will be invited to Football University.
The top player from the Class of 2017 will receive one of 1,500 invitations to the combine in San Antonio, Texas, at which the teams for the 2017 Army All American Game will be chosen. The 1,500 invitations will be whittled to 500 spots, from which 100 players, two teams of 50 players each, will be chosen for the 2017 game in San Antonio.
Football University will hold a camp for players in grades 6-12 at Westhill High School in Stamford the weekend of June 26. Information on the camp, which costs $595 per player, can be found at footballuniversity.org <http://footballuniversity.org> .
“They can work on fundamentals, technical skills and technique development with NFL-level coaches,” said Bouffard, who added that the camp will feature a 20-hour “intense curriculum.”
Drills will be filmed and reviewed in classroom sessions. There will also be lectures on recruiting, social media and leadership.
Bouffard said athletes and their families will learn what they need to do to continue their football careers at any level of college.
“It’s not like it was in the old days when coaches would send out a dozen VHS tapes of kids and get recruited,” Bouffard said. Now you’re being an advocate for yourself.”
That involves creating players making their own highlight tapes on websites, as well as making sure their posts on social media don’t haunt them.
“One of the seminars we do at camp is how to be an advocate and protect your brand on social media,” Bouffard said. “It’s as much off the field as it is on.”
There are too many examples, Bouffard said, of 5-star athletes being kicked off teams because of trouble with the law or posts on social media.
Self-promotion must be joined with being seen at events such as the showcase and developing technique, Bouffard said.
“You’re going to meet your match, another kid who is the same size, speed, athletic ability,” he said. “Your technique has to be better than his.”
Events such as the showcase and camp allow coaches to provide extra tutoring that can’t be provided at the team level, Bouffard said. “(High school coaches) can’t spend time on technique,” he said. “It’s all about getting the guys lined up to win the game on Friday night.”