It’s a cool January night at Westhills Stadium and two groups of athletes are busy getting tested.
On one side are the speed drills – sideline to sideline, flat-out sprints – and on the other, players are being measured for their standing broad jump and medicine ball toss distances.
An affable man with a slight southern accent barks out orders, but does so with a smile. He’s J.C. Boice, announced last week as the new head coach for the B.C. Football Conference’s Westshore Rebels.
The 41-year-old Oregon native accepted an offer by the Rebels board to guide the team’s on-field operations for 2015 and hopefully beyond. With the club reaching more out into the community last season and building its brand, the goal is to see the same kind of growth between the sidelines.
“They asked me to consider coaching the Rebels here and I just really felt like it was the right place and the right team,” he said during a break in the workouts. “I really like how hard they’re working … I really feel this team is ripe for success.”
The Rebels have also reinstalled Sheldon Halliman as assistant head coach. The Rebels alumnus served in the role, as defensive co-ordinator, with Andrew Axhorn last year after original co-head coach Tom Fong stepped down.
Boice, Saanich and Seattle-based director of operations with training and skills development company National Football Academies, is a quarterbacking expert who travels around North America working with young players and giving talks on the sport. He’s spent the past couple of seasons helping coach the Belmont Bulldogs, but is familiar with the Rebels program, having seen a number of Bulldogs play their way onto the junior team.
What does he look most forward to about taking on a program that has won just four games in the past two seasons?
“Instilling confidence in these kids,” he says. “I think they’re starving for the opportunity to compete and really start playing with authentic confidence. That’s something that we can do.”
Having met briefly with a lot of the returning players and watching game film from last season, Boice is clear on the direction he’d like to take to help bring about more success on the field. “They need a staff that can get behind them and equip them and then hold them accountable to go out and do it.”
Team president Elise Pastro, who, along with her volunteer board were voted executive of the year in the BCFC for 2014, is excited about gaining more stability in the coaching ranks.
“J.C. and Sheldon will bring a whole new level of competitiveness to the Rebels,” she says. “J.C. is a high-level, full-time coach who works regularly with some of the top athletes and coaches in the U.S. He works with players and staffs from the SEC, PAC 12, ACC, Big10 and Big 12. Rebels players are going to be exposed to a whole new level of modern football.”
The club got off to a rocky start last season when Axhorn was split between a theatre commitment and his coaching duties and never did quite get on track, going 2-8 and losing their final five games.
“I’m here because of the board and I’m here because of the kids,” Boice says. “I do see this as a turnaround opportunity, but I see it as an equation that will yield a measurable result. I think we can be very competitive. Our focus will be around developing a real family atmosphere and culture, about developing both young men and football players, and we’re going to develop the athletes we have here.”
Boice considers himself a good recruiter and calls the West Shore and Greater Victoria an “easy place” to recruit players, given the facilities and the ability to work out year-round.
“The best athletes in the U.S. come out of California, Texas and Florida,” he says, because they have weather conducive to year-round outdoor training.
He sees the Rebels becoming a pipeline within a few years for players who want to go on to play in the CIS, which was the scenario some years back.
He plans to bring in a number of former Rebels who have gone on to play post-secondary football to help at spring camp. The goal is to attract 100 players, he says.
For information about the Rebels program, visit westshorerebelsfootball.com.