T-Birds wrap spring camp
Late Pembina Hills chair Doug Fleming remembered at T-Birds' jamboree
There may have been football being play on the field Saturday afternoon in Westlock, but for many people their thoughts were elsewhere.
The annual jamboree marking the end of the Thunderbirds’ spring camp was renamed the Dr. Doug Fleming Memorial Football Jamboree this year in honour of the late Doug Fleming, former Pembina Hills school division trustee and board chair, who passed away in January.
Staff at R.F. Staples and members of the football team decided to memorialize Fleming by naming the jamboree after him in large part because he had been involved with football for many years as an official.
Trustee Annette Bokenfohr, who had worked with Fleming around the board table for about 18 months, said she was honoured to have been part of the jamboree.
“Doug was a great man and a great presence,” she said. “He just loved the kids and he loved reffing.”
She went on to say that renaming the event was an excellent way to honour Fleming and the sport and kids he loved.
“The team is a wonderful organization for kids, and it’s really fun,” she added.
Jerry Buchko, who officiates T-Birds games, had worked with Fleming on the field for years, and felt attaching Fleming’s name to the event was an appropriate thing to do.
“He loved the game, and he sure enjoyed it,” he said. “We think he would have loved to have been honoured.”
Buchko added that he and the others involved with the honour spoke to Fleming’s wife Donna, who said she liked the idea. Donna was not in attendance at the jamboree on Saturday, Buchko said.
Joining Bokenfohr in attendance were trustees Sherry Allen and David Truckey, all of whom represent the Westlock area around the Pembina Hills board table.
With the jamboree now in the rear-view window, T-Birds coach Jon Kramer said he’s looking forward to getting the real season started in August.
“The team’s looking good,” he said. “Every season’s an interesting one as you get a different mix of kids.”
This year fits into that observation, as the majority of the team is brand new, he said. As such, the spring camp was crucial to get the new players up to speed by teaching them the skills they need to compete and stay safe in game action.
There’s only so much that can be done in practice, he said. Learning the Xs and Os and learning how to read plays were some of the major components of the game the players learned, but eventually they needed to try their skills against another team.
That’s where the jamboree comes in handy, Kramer explained.
“In practice you’re holding back,” he said. “Here, you’re seeing real game action against people you’ve never seen before and against plays you’ve never seen. It forces you to recognize how all the skills work together.”
So far the team has continued to improve from the first day of camp earlier this month.
“They’ve shown a lot of character,” he said.
After a few weeks off, the team will reconvene in late August to prepare in earnest for another season of Wheatland Football League action starting in September.
With last year’s results still in his memory, Kramer said he’s looking forward to building on that, but recognizes that it’s up to the players to determine how this season will go.
“Success is determined by how hard the team works,” he said.
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