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Rita to the rescue: former CFL coach and GM steps in to save football camp

Rita to the rescue: former CFL coach and GM steps in to save football camp

There are plenty of offseason football camps out there for prospects to try and get noticed, and organizational issues can mean that some of them don't wind up ending well. That was almost the case with a camp this past weekend in Grand Forks, North Dakota for players aged 14 to 20 to try and attract attention from college scouts; players from Canada and the U.S. paid $450 each and were promised new jerseys, gear, coaching and an official game to get on film, but most of that wasn't in evidence when they showed up. That's when former CFL coach and general manager Adam Rita, who was only supposed to be there as a scout for his private Hill Academy team in Toronto, teamed with another coach who was there recruiting to give the players positional drills and a game after all:

"The guy who's running it, I think he's done some stuff like this in Europe. He's a young guy, 22 — he's in over his head. He made a lot of promises; not one of them happened, except he did rent the stadium," Rita said, adding the organizer had also developed a great program but ultimately "left people stranded."

"When we realized there was no coach for the younger players, another coach and I who were there recruiting, we volunteered because we weren't going to let the kids down."

Rita said he and the other coach slapped some drills together and managed to salvage the situation for the players.

"We put together offences, defences and special teams and three practices and had a game plan. I stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning Saturday night putting together a wrist band for the quarterbacks so I could signal plays in," Rita said.

That's great to see from Rita, who wound up with much more work than he probably anticipated on the weekend, but was certainly qualified to help these kids out. Rita spent almost three decades as a CFL coach and executive, winning one Grey Cup as a head coach (with the 1991 Toronto Argonauts) and two as a general manager (with B.C. in 2000 and with Toronto in 2004). He's also worked overseas and at various other levels. It's terrific to see him use that experience to help out these players on short notice, and while things didn't work out perfectly (the lack of jerseys meant the players didn't get the usable highlight film they were promised), they got some high-calibre coaching and excellent experience. It's unfortunate for the kids that this camp didn't go as planned, but Rita and the other coach who helped out deserve a lot of credit for salvaging the situation and giving the players a positive experience. That helps speak to the community nature of football, and to the character of some of the people who are involved in the game.