Ontario Prospect Challenge: Team West Varsity Coach Neil Lumsden – the tryout phase



WHERE: Guelph – University of Guelph Alumni Stadium – $10 general admission, all-day pass

WHEN:  Sunday May 4 – Kickoff times are 10am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm, 7:30pm

BROADCAST: Live on Canadafootballchat.com & tape delay on ROGERS TV



With kick-off just over a week away, we have been fortunate enough to introduce several of the young football players who will be suiting up in the inaugural ONTARIO PROSPECT CHALLENGE. Many of the young men are players that you have heard of or possibly caught live on one of CanadaFootballChat.com’s numerous live streams. Others, especially at the younger levels are up and comers hoping for their share of the recruiting spotlight. While the focus is and should be on the players, it is easy to lose sight of what an enormous undertaking it is to first select the rosters from such a deep pool of talent (upwards of 600 participants in the initial tryouts) and second actually prepare these athletes in minimal time to compete in a one game showcase. This year’s ONTARIO PROSPECT CHALLENGE will boast of wealth of phenomenal coaches, one of these being Team West bench boss Neil Lumsden. Volumes have been spoken about an outstanding amateur and professional career as a player, however as much or more can be written about what Coach Lumsden has given back as coach in a second career in football that has spanned over thirty years.

Coach Lumsden has enjoyed recent success in leading the Burlington Stampeders to OFC Championships in 2008 & 2010 and was the Head Coach of the Burlington Braves in the CJFL before joining the Guelph Gryphons Football staff for the past 3 seasons as RB coach and assistant to the HC. Lumsden has all-star game coaching experience having coached other All Star teams representing the Golden Horseshoe.

As mentioned there are many factors and challenges to coaching in an All-star game/environment. We we’re able to go a little in depth with Coach Lumsden regarding the tryout process, what he saw and what he may be anticipating.


CFC: Thanks coach for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us today. Being no stranger to these all-star games what is your general approach for the initial “try-out” phase?

COACH LUMSDEN: The quote from Forrest Gump always comes to mind “Life is like a box of chocolates…..” because it is so applicable in these games. You truly don’t know what you are going to get and I always go in with no preconceived notions. From a coaching perspective, there is no doubt it is a challenge, you know you have such a brief period to evaluate, but at the same time you owe it to the athletes to make sure you are still coaching while evaluating. The goal is to help them improve and help grow their football IQ to enhance their chances of success at the next level, whatever that may be.

CFC: You mention football IQ, how hard is this to evaluate and teach in such a short time?

COACH LUMSDEN: Most of the players that come out have such a love of the game that their football IQ is already pretty significant, couple that with the fact that they are very motivated and eager to learn it’s really not difficult at all, I mean there are some challenges in such a short time period, but again the knowledge and desire are both there.

CFC: You also talk about coaching while evaluating, can you elaborate on that a bit?

COACH LUMSDEN: First and foremost you want to quickly ascertain who you have. You also want to make sure that while you are doing this that you make them better, no drastic changes or anything, just subtle tips, we really focus on the skills necessary to improve as it also serves as a great evaluation tool. You want to make sure that although it is an extremely competitive environment the kids have fun while learning.

CFC: What’s the next step in the process?

COACH LUMSDEN: This weekend we have a full day for our final tryout phase, so we’ll approach it like we would the first day of practice in a regular week at Guelph. By that I mean, we’ll introduce the game plan, special teams and set the tone for the rest of the practices. The key this weekend will be the insertion of our “system” for the game, introduction our special teams and more, but at the same time we’ll still be in teaching mode, and with the full day it’ll become easier to recognize what we have in terms of potential strengths, etc.

CFC: Speaking of special teams, how much focus do you put into that considering the abbreviated prep time?

COACH LUMSDEN: Huge focus. There will always be limitations with how creative you may be able to get in such a short time period, but we place a big emphasis on special teams, as much as we would any other aspect. We want to ensure that players understand just how crucial an element they are and how important they can be for team and individual success. Part of this comes from giving them a better understanding of the systems and concepts of each unit.

CFC: Have any players jumped out at you?

COACH LUMSDEN: Still a little early, but I think after this weekend we expect a few to jump out.

CFC: For yourself, do you have goals for the whole process?

COACH LUMSDEN: You want to see the kids have fun that’s the most important thing and everything else will fall into place. You want to prep the players to have fun. One of the great things here is you don’t have that “win at all cost mentality”, I mean sure winning is nice, but our primary goal is that all the kids play and grow. It meant a lot to me when I was a kid to have these opportunities and coaching. Personally I coach for many reasons, very few are selfish, but one of the more selfish reasons would have to be that it’s an absolute pleasure to watch the kids compete.

Make sure you check in next week as we follow up with Coach Lumsden after the weekend’s prep.











Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.

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