Look for Gavin Lake to be emphasizing much more than just technical skills and drill execution when the Okanagan Sun opens up its 2012 training camp on Friday night.
For the first-year head coach, nothing will be more crucial for his players than embracing the team concept, and playing the game with passion.
“When you look at different teams, there really isn’t a significant difference in talent, skill, speed, size, and so on,” said Lake, who was hired by the Sun in late March. “Ultimately what it comes down to is the attitude, the heart, the karma that a team has that determines how successful they are.
“None of these guys are getting paid, so if you don’t have a happy, cohesive locker room, then you really don’t have much,” Lake added. “If you don’t love the game, this locker room isn’t for you. That’s where we want to start, and we’ll build on that.”
Lake expects a passionate collection of between 75 and 85 players to suit up for main camp which begins Friday night at the Apple Bowl/Parkinson practise fields.
Lake, who has been on the job full-time since May 1, takes over a team with perennially high expectations, a Sun club that hasn’t won a BCFC title in eight years.
General manager Jay Christensen said Lake—who has CFL, CIS and European experience—brings some much needed coaching attributes to his first Sun training camp.
“I think one his strengths is he’s really got the players excited, he’s a high-tempo kind of guy who is very enthusiastic…he’s a football guy, through and through,” said Christensen. “Obviously with a new coach comes a new system, so there’s going to be a learning curve that will take some time. But you can already feel a chemistry there that we didn’t really have last year. He has spoke to team chemistry quite a lot, and that’s really a priority for him.”
As for the talent pool the new coach will have to work with at his first Sun camp, Lake is encouraged by the depth at two positions in paticular.
“Our offensive skill positions are what really jumps out and me, both at receiver and running back,” said Lake. “We really have standouts all across the board, I expect some great competition in both areas.”
Even without veteran Danny Turek (University of Manitoba), Lake said Sun No. 1 quarterback Jeremy Joseph-Mraovic will have no shortage of talented receivers to throw to in 2012.
Veteran returnees Ben White, Bobby Davis, Tommy Howes will be joined by the likes of newcomer Nico Sokolowski (Acadia) and second-year Kelowna product Kyle Patchell as no fewer than 15 receivers are expected at camp.
“We’ll have at least a dozen guys who can play, so competition will be intense,” Lake said.
At running back, Alex Bradley (360 yards) returns for his second season, while newcomers Evan Petrie (Acadia) and Robert Giorno (UBC) will add explosiveness to the mix.
“We’ve got three legitimate tailbacks, so that’s a nice way to head into training camp,” Lake said.
Led by CJFL defensive player of the year Steven Doege, Lake said the D-line will also be an area of considerable strength. Returnee Devon Kozar along with newcomers Zak Ironstand (Saskatoon), Terrence Mendes (Acadia), and Sean Mason (Manitoba) are all part of a group Lake said consists of “sheer quality.”
Three-year veteran Brandon Donkers leads a linebacking corps that will feature several new faces, and an area of the club that Lake insists there are “no locks on positions.”
Robbie Yochim, Blake Butler and Landon King are back in the defensive secondary where newcomer Jack Rush (Niagara Falls/Acadia) will look to make an impact.
Evan McCann and Curtis Demelo are returning veterans on an offensive line which should feature plenty of youth and as many as 15 bodies during training camp.
Training camp will continue Saturday and Sunday with two sessions per day, and will wrap up with a controlled scrimmage on Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Sun will play an exhibition game Saturday, July 28 in Salmon Arm against the Kamloops Broncos.
Okanagan’s BCFC season opener in Saturday, Aug. 4 at the Apple Bowl vs the Langley Rams.