When he took on the job this spring, Shane Beatty vowed recruiting would be a top priority.
Based on the ground he’s covered across Western Canada over the last month, it’s pretty clear the new head coach of the Okanagan Sun wasn’t bluffing.
Beatty’s travel log to date includes two recruiting trips to Vancouver, and one visit each to Winnipeg, Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Kamloops.
“Until this week, I hadn’t slept in Kelowna for three consecutive nights since I moved here,” Beatty said with a laugh. “But it’s been great. We’ve made contact with a lot of great kids and we’ve got some key commitments. We’ve still go lots of work to do, but I’d say the recruiting so far has exceeded my expectations. I think we’re doing well.”
While the numbers could fluctuate between now and then, Beatty expects in the neighbourhood of 110 players to attend the club’s spring camp two weeks from now.
Joining about 50 Sun returnees at camp will be 36 to 38 recruits from outside the Okanagan, and another 25 or so from Kelowna.
Beatty is particularly excited about a pair of recruits who have committed to the Sun for 2013—Dylan Craddock, a 290-pound offensive lineman from Richmond, and Lucas Michado, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Winnipeg.
“There are some other kids of that calibre we’re working on, but with those guys we’re off to a good start,” he said.
As is the case every spring, many of the top available prospects make stops at several camps within the B.C. Football Conference.
Beatty said the Sun is currently in competition with both the Langley Rams and Vancouver Island Raiders for about 15 quality recruits.
“We’re in the game with those two teams for quite a few guys and that hasn’t happened for while here,” Beatty said. “I love it. It’s a good feeling to compete with those teams just like it will be on the football field.
“I think once we get those kids to Kelowna, they’re going to like what they see. We have Jay (Christensen), Les (Weiss) and Paul (Carson)…all excellent football guys involved with this team, so I think that’s going to be a benefit to us, too.”
Beatty, who played with the Sun in 1990, has made it clear that restoring a winning tradition and a deep sense of pride within the organization are also at the top of his priority list.
The Sun, which went 3-7 in 2012, is coming off its poorest showing in club history.
“We just can’t accept the status quo,” said Beatty, a native of Kamloops who has NCAA coaching experience. “We’ve been talking with the kids who are returning and making sure that they can’t be satisfied with what’s happened here.
“We have to change things and get the program back on the right track. We know we’re going to hit some bumps along the way, but we have to stay the course. We have to get on the same page and commit to a common goal.”
While still in the early stages of his coaching tenure, GM Jay Christensen said Beatty brings both experience and an infectious enthusiasm to the position.
“Shane has a great football background, he brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the job,” said Christensen. “I’d say the biggest thing I’ve noticed is his enthusiasm for the game. It’s exciting, not only for the current players, but for the guys coming in. That excitement level just permeates through the entire organization.
“He wanted to restore Okanagan Sun football to what it was,” Christensen said, “and when you look at the attitude side of it, we’re already there with Shane.”
Beatty will conduct his first spring camp as head coach of the Okanagan Sun May 11 and 12.
The team’s main camp begins July 5.