By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the LaSalle Post on July 21, 2017.
(LASALLE, ON) – It’s time to polish those cleats and dust off your helmet – football is back!
At present, the Windsor Minor Football Association is in the process of registration for the 2017 gridiron season and the Windsor Police Association peewee football team is looking to fill their roster with some of LaSalle’s finest young athletes.
WMFA was founded in 1954, an organization aimed to provide tackle football and cheerleading to youth aged 7-13 in Windsor-Essex County.
The Windsor Police Association football team moved its operations and practice field to LaSalle to better cater to athletes south of Windsor.
Nicknamed the ‘Police’, the team practices up to three times a week at Sandwich Secondary School, but like the remainder of their league, play league games at the Fogolar Furlan Club.
Coaching the Windsor Police Association this year will be 49-year-old south Windsor native Scott Valentine, 40 years since he, himself, first suited up for the club.
“I remember Coach [Mal] Hodges wanted to cut me after my first practice with the Police because I was just too small,” said Valentine. “I snuck over to the pile of equipment they were handing out, grabbed some pads and a helmet, ran on the field, and wouldn’t let anyone knock me off it.”
Valentine spent five years in Windsor Minor Football.
“I started playing football when I was nine,” he stated. “At the time, the WMFA didn’t have separate age divisions like they do today, so I was a four-foot something, 70 lb. kid out there knocking around with 14-year-olds that were literally twice my size.”
Valentine played four years of high school ball with the Massey Mustangs and a pair more with the Windsor AKO Fratmen before calling it a career. He won All-City awards with both the Mustangs and in the WMFA.
“Over the years, I think I played every position on the field, other than kicker,” he recalled.
“Eventually I settled in as a slot back/tight end on [offence], and safety on [defence].”
After his time with AKO, Valentine turned to coaching, jumping on board with Hodges, a local police officer, to assist him with the Police team.
A few years later, he moved to Toronto to join the coaching staff of the North York Bandits minor football system and won a Wilson Bowl, emblematic of the Ontario Minor Football championship, with the team.
Valentine, a ghost writer in the business and technology world, spent much of a quarter-century on the road working for tech startups, only returning home in 2015.
“I moved back to the area two years ago and knew I wanted to be involved with the game again,” explained Valentine.
“I reached out to the league president [Paul Horoky] to see if there was an assistant coach role somewhere I could slide into.
“As it turned out, the head coach of the Police, my old squad, was moving on, and I ended up winning the opportunity to replace him.”
The new Police coach is excited to return to his old digs.
“To be honest, when I think about the opportunity to go back and coach the Police now, I get kind of tingly,” said Valentine.
“Football was everything to me when I was young; my sanctuary. I still clearly remember my coaches and everything they did, not just to make me a better player, but really to help me grow up and become a man.
“Maybe 40 years from now one of the kids I coach will be right back here doing the same thing.
“I’m excited and very grateful for the opportunity.”
Under University of Windsor Lancers’ alum Austin Kennedy, the Police won the city peewee championship two seasons ago and made it far into the playoffs last year.
Valentine anticipates having a few veterans back from last year’s team, as well as some kids graduating up from the atom level.
“[I feel] stoked and a little anxious to get things started,” explained the coach.
“Obviously, I want the team to do well – if you’re going to play, compete. That said, I’ve learned from my business career that building successful teams takes a group effort.
“We absolutely need the support of parents, volunteers and the community at large to make this experience everything it can be for these young people, who want to have fun, be a part of something, and play some ball.”
That being said, the Police are looking to add helpers from the community of LaSalle to their team. Valentine is in search of assistant coaches, a team manager, and for student volunteers.
They are also in need of an equipment sponsor to help with the cost of neck rolls and visors for each kid.
“A full set for each athlete will cost perhaps $50 or $60 – that’s a small price to pay to help protect a kid’s eyes, head, and neck,” added Valentine.
“We coach heads-up tackling, emphasize safe play, and every coach will need to go through concussion protocol training.”
Valentine hopes to create the right environment for young athletes to learn and enjoy the sport.
“Football-wise, we’ll set goals for the team each week based on where we’re at developmentally and who our opponents are,” he said.
“Everybody on this team will play regularly – that’s a promise. Everybody on this team will learn what it takes to work together towards a common goal. Everyone on this team will be a better football player at the end of the season than they were at the beginning.
“I hope we can be a part of the community that people are proud of. I hope a few of the kids discover the same love for the game that I did when I was their age.”
Practices for the Police team will start in August, while games runs from September to November.
“You don’t have to be a great athlete,” said Valentine. “Football is really a game about mental toughness and on-field IQ. So, if you’re plain old smart, scrappy, or you just want to play the game, you can do well. If a kid wants to play, the Police have a spot on our roster for them.”
For more information on the Windsor Minor Football Association team, divisions, and registration, please visit WMFA86.com.