The SFU football team battled to the final whistle this season despite posting a 0–9 record on the season.
Playing football at the university level is an incredible commitment. Not only is it arguably the most physically demanding team sport, it is also the most intellectually complex.
The Clan football team practiced four times a week during the season at 7:30 a.m. and also attended regular film sessions and team meetings to correct their in-game mistakes and prep for their upcoming opponents. In the New Year, they will be back at it with three practices and two film sessions per week. Plus, there is the continuous training and weightlifting, all of which are necessary to achieve success. It is truly a year-round commitment, one that most of the players have been engaged in since high school. I spoke with Head Coach Kelly Bates, who says the 2015 roster of the SFU Clan more than met his expectations for commitment, dedication, and perseverance.
What made this team so special is how well they played and how close they came to achieving multiple victories despite operating with a distinct disadvantage. In fact, in five of their nine games, the Clan had the lead or were tied at halftime. In most games the team struggled to dress 50 healthy players competing against schools with double the roster size.
Coach Bates, who was hired last offseason, elaborated by stating, “as little as five years ago there were 110 kids on this team. That is a product of the coaching turnover.The last two off seasons there hasn’t been a coach to recruit. This year we tried to get ahead of it. We offered 40 kids for next year and we will offer 20 more. And we [have] started on the 2017 season already.”
One of the toughest challenges in football is battling through a winless season, knowing it probably is the last time you will ever play football. Coach Bates reflected on his graduating players: “I told the seniors we won’t waste the work they put into this team. As a group they have been outstanding. There are some professional football players in that group. . . some guys who are going to be doctors [and] guys who are going to be huge contributors to society, which is really what we are aiming for at the end of the day.
“I wish I had them for two or three more years. I think they are special and it isn’t going to be easy to find new people to play where they were.”
One bright spot for the Clan was the play of middle linebacker Jordan Herdman. Jordan was able to win his second straight GNAC Defensive Player of the Year award, averaging 14.8 tackles per game to lead the GNAC.
“Back to back defensive player of the year, two years in a row is a honour,” Herdman told The Peak. “I’m very grateful.”
The SFU Clan football team should be incredibly proud of their 2015 season. “This offseason when I came aboard, every single player bought into what we were trying to do, knowing that it was a tough road ahead,” coach Bates reflected. “I preached it from the get-go that I needed them to lay the foundation for us to move forward. I feel like they have done that. Their work ethic both on and off the season has been excellent.”