A former Winnipeg Blue Bomber is doing his part to make the off-season go by a little quicker for youth football players.
Dave Donaldson, the former defensive back and receiver who is now working as a CFL official, will be hosting his sixth annual Premier Football Factory Winter Skills and Development Camp from Jan. 2 to 4.
The camp is open to players of all levels, with kids aged nine to 13 in one group and the 14- to 18-year-olds in a second group.
The main attraction is the high-level coaching the players receive from Donaldson and many other current and former professional football players. Past guest coaches have included Buck Pierce, Markus Howell, Lamar McGriggs, Gavin Walls, Kyle Walters and Glen Scrivener. The final list for this year has yet to be determined.
"If a kid wants to get better in hockey, there are thousands of opportunities," said Donaldson, a Charleswood resident. "When I was growing up (in the West End) I didn’t get the opportunity to rub shoulders with pro players like our camp allows kids to do.
"This is something that allows all of us guys who used to play, and still play, to develop these kids."
The other thing players like about the camp is that it gives them a rare chance to step on the gridiron during the winter.
"A lot of kids football is over in November," Donaldson said. "They’re all wanting to play and get back on the field. Training is a big part of it now, but with this they’re able to get their football fix in rather than pounding weights."
The camp will take place at the Winnipeg Soccer Federation Indoor Soccer Complex, located at the University of Manitoba. Younger kids will take to the field daily from 9 a.m. until noon with the older group taking over from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Donaldson said the players have always enjoyed the camp’s lack of classroom time. All the teaching is done on the field, he said.
"We teach them the skills they need," he said. "We can’t teach them systems, because every coach has a different system. A defensive back, for example, will understand everything that encompasses man coverage."
While there is no required skill level to attend the camp, Donaldson said a large number of the older participants end up playing junior or university football.
"It’s great for kids aspiring to play further beyond high school, but it’s also for anyone who’s trying to get better," he said.
Donaldson, who provides coaching to inner-city football players during the season, also puts an emphasis on personal growth at his camp. He gives post-practice speeches about life, and how to be a better citizen.
"They end up being not only different players, but different people," he said.
For more information on the camp, visit www.premierfootballfactory.com.