–By Ottawa Sportspage, for Louis-Riel Rebelles
Two titans of elite athlete development in Ottawa are coming together to launch a 7-on-7 football program – the perfect off-season tonic for players shooting for the top.
Starting this fall, Louis-Riel will offer the new stream within its renowned sports-study program, led by coaches from the upstart Sports Training Academy, which has brought together many of Ottawa’s best coaching minds across many sports.
“We’re very excited,” signals Louis-Riel sports-study program coordinator Ken Levesque, noting the school’s had a long-standing appetite for football, but didn’t have the numbers to field a traditional team with its smaller school population, or the coaching expertise.
“Having a partnership with STA, where they have their own professional coaches and are running great programs now, it’s a really good fit,” adds Levesque. “I’m very impressed with what they’re doing at STA. I like their philosophy of teaching and coaching. They really want to work with every athlete to bring them to the next level.”
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Participants will split their time daily afternoon training between the Dome Louis-Riel – a world-class facility adjacent to the school – and the STA facility in the Industrial Park off Sheffield Rd.
Now entrenched in the U.S., 7-on-7 football has become a popular form of the sport. It’s focused on player safety (no-contact, 2-hand touch). And it’s exciting – pass-only, played on a 40-yard field. Sometimes called “fast football”, 7-on-7 allows positional players to work on their jump, run and catch skills.
After the community club football season is complete, program participants will travel monthly to American 7-on-7 tournaments – providing a showcase to get identified for scholarship opportunities – and play in events at the Dome to help build a 7-on-7 football presence locally.
“It’s a great alternative for kids to continue playing at a very high level,” highlights STA Global Director of Football Operations Christo Bilukidi, noting players often increase their speed after playing 7-on-7. “In high school, most players play football in the fall until October or November and then that’s it… The key is to have a good offseason, and that’s what we provide at STA.”
With coaches for each position, the STA football staff is flooded with university and professional experience – headed of course by Bilukidi, who played 5 NFL seasons with Oakland, Cincinnati and Baltimore.
“It’s great to come back and get to work with the next generation as a coach now,” underlines the former defensive tackle. “I like to think that I paved the way for these guys. I understand what they’re trying to achieve, and I know exactly what they need to get there.
“When I see young kids that have that drive and ambition and want to succeed that bad, it gives me that fire to make them succeed too.”
Bilukidi is focused on working hand-in-hand with the football community to further enhance players’ potential, and the way Louis-Riel incorporates sport into school is a big key in that quest, he says.
“I wish I had something like that growing up,” adds the Georgia State University product. “You tell an athlete that you can get all your training done by the end of the school day, not miss anything academically in their timetable, and all the support they get in the program – I mean, wow, it’s incredible for the city of Ottawa.”