Football is going high-tech at Vincent Massey Collegiate.
Just entering its fifth season, the Trojans football program is continuing to push the boundaries of high school football with the purchase of 55 iPad Minis that coach Kelsey McKay believes will help his team in numerous ways next season.
Thirty-three of the touchscreen gadgets were put into use this spring in the school’s football academy phys-ed class, with the rest set to be unwrapped in the fall.
The players will be able to download animated playbooks, watch game and practice film — complete with telestration and voiceovers by coaches — and scout opponents at school and at home.
"As far as I know we’re the only high school in Canada doing this," said McKay, who got the idea after hearing about several NFL teams employing tablets in similar ways. "I’m the only coach who’s at the school full-time, so this will make everything more efficient between the other coaches and the players."
Coaches can upload plays or film study whenever they want, and players are notified immediately that there is new material to download.
"I was excited when I found out (about the iPads)," said Noah Wilson, a Grade 11 linebacker and offensive tackle from Linden Woods. "I couldn’t believe it. I was surprised coach would even allow it. We usually keep things down to the basics.
"Guys are going to be more interested in studying their playbooks. They’re going to want to get better, and everyone will be on board for a common goal."
McKay said his goal from Day 1 has been to make the program as close to a professional atmosphere as possible.
"It enhances the experience for the kids," he said. "Even though this is amateur football, we’re trying to create as professional an experience as we can.
"I want to win games like everyone else, but I also want these kids to think 20 years from now about how awesome an experience they had."
The iPads mark just one of many exciting things happening with the Vincent Massey program. The team installed a new, solar-powered scoreboard last year and will be adding new bleachers this season. Plans are in the works for new lighting and a pro-style inflatable tunnel from which the team will make a grand entrance.
And most exciting for the players is an upcoming trip to Hawaii in August to take on a team on Oahu.
All that adds up to a program that will have no trouble attracting players, Wilson said.
"It’s making it more appealing to players," he said. "I can really see us taking off and becoming a powerhouse."
The Trojans went 5-3 last year, losing a playoff heartbreaker to the Dakota Lancers. About half the roster will be back, with plenty of reinforcements arriving from the 9-1 junior varsity squad that lost in the championship game to Oak Park, McKay said.