Coach Kemp leads Raiders through losing streak
Three consecutive losses isn’t the way the Northern Raiders midget football team wanted to start the 2012 season. Although the team has yet to record a point, they’re staying positive thanks to the leadership of longtime head coach Steve Kemp.
Kemp grew up in Airdrie and played his bantam and high school football careers in the city, the latter as a member of the George McDougall Mustangs. After that, he worked his way across Western Canada to Nanaimo. He played five years of junior with the Vancouver Island Raiders, winning two national championships and four British Columbia Football Conference (BCFC) championships.
After injuries ended his playing days, Kemp returned to Airdrie and took up coaching. It’s given him a different view of the game.
“I’ve always enjoyed the game,” Kemp said. “I love the teaching part of it and I have a lot of fun working with the kids. It’s a different challenge. It’s more of a chess match instead of a physical match.”
He’s been coaching the Northern Raiders and the Airdrie Storm bantam team for the past ten years. Last year, the Northern Raiders defeated the Calgary Stampeders 35-0 to win the Division II championship. Kemp was hoping the team would carry that momentum into this season, but in the three opening losses, the Raiders have been outscored 115-0.
“Our goal this year is to make the Tier I playoffs, but we’ve made it hard on ourselves,” he said. “There have been a lot of positives. We played the Hilltoppers (in our second game), and we played them very tough. Unfortunately, we came back with a lacklustre effort. But the boys all took responsibility, and they’re hungry to get back in there.”
Despite the slow start, Kemp is looking forward to the team’s first win and to the rest of the season. And while he’d like to see the team’s success from last year replicated this spring, Kemp is also looking forward to watching the development of his players.
“It’s fun to work with the kids and see them develop from day one,” he said.
“There might be one kid who, at the beginning of the season, can’t make a tackle, but becomes one of your best tacklers. It’s real fun to watch someone who comes in and wasn’t sure of the game, and by the end of the season, he’s one of your best players.”