Football season is here! Along with men’s and women’s teams, Roosters’ junior teams are heading to their first kick offs of the season. U20 girl’s team had their games against Helsinki Wolverines and U20- and U15- boy’s teams are on fire next Friday and Saturday. Not to forget U13 -that played last Sunday and U17 starting June 27th. Girls play in boy’s teams until U15.
The off-season has been long and a lot of work has been done. So here are some thoughts from Roosters’ Youth Program coordinator Daniel Stanzel about what has been going on:
The season is about to start. How do you feel going into 2019?
– I am very excited about getting this thing going. Players have worked very hard since November, on and off the field and in the weight room. We have gotten stronger and faster across the board and I cannot wait to see how it will transfer onto the field. Do not get me wrong, we still have a lot of work to do and it will be a tough season, but finally we get to compete against other teams and some of those kids will play their first real football game.
You have been managing the Youth Program for more than half a year now, how has your experience been?
– Well I am not gonna lie it has been “interesting”, haha. I think anyone involved in American Football in Finland understands the state the sport is in and the challenges we all face. Let’s think about the logistics of a simple practice for example. In the winter you have a tough time finding a practice field, as you can imagine, so we planned to use a gym at a local school. Well the school suddenly has their exams in the gym and kicks you out. So you decide to go to Kisahalli. At Kisahalli the Seagulls suddenly decide to practice earlier than usual and you are forced to do Receiver Drills in the last corner of the gym. Then you are told you are not allowed to use balls in those areas so you decide to do footwork drills on the stairs.
– The following week you decide to actually use the field outdoors but a snow storm ruins that plan. Well, not really, we actually kicked away the ice on a small spot on the field and practiced while it was -10 outside. And we haven’t even talked about things such as finding players or coaches, or money or scheduling or game days. So as you can see, sometimes you just have to make it work somehow.
Speaking of finding coaches, there has been a change made in the U20 team?
– Yes. This is a good example of how sometimes you just have to make it work. Jesse Jalo is probably one of the most committed Roosters I know. Around Christmas time I believe, the women’s team struggled to find coaches. So Jesse and his staff were the firsts to offer a helping hand. Suddenly I saw Jesse almost every day at the practice fields, while he is also having a full time job on the side.
– So we decided to transform the U20 team more into a practice squad for the men’s team and have veterans and imports work with them since most of them already play on the men’s team anyways. Henri Väänänen is now the head coach, while Jesse remains the assistant HC. This allowed Jesse and his staff to put all their energy into the women’s team and from what I have been hearing they are doing amazing things over there.
– Henri on the other hand is one of those young coaches you just want to give a shot. I called him the Sean McVay of Helsinki and he has been such a huge help for me this off season.
The U20 is kicking off their season on Saturday against the Crocodiles, what can we expect?
– Well… you know what I said about making things work, haha. Half of the players of our U20 team will be in Copenhagen this weekend and so will be all of the coaches. Hence we are currently preparing some of our U17 players to collect their first game experience in the U20 this upcoming Saturday. And I am actually very excited about that.
– Like I said, some of those boys have been working very hard for months. Most of those U17 players such as Santtu (Vehkomäki) or Arttu (Pajarinen) have even earned themselves spots on the men’s roster already. Others spent the whole off season with the men’s team. Then you have guys like Milo Lybeck or Touko “Tukataka” Lehtonen, who are both 15 years old and have been some of the most improved players this offseason coming straight from the U15 team. And you will see rookies such as Niklas Kingo start their first game. Kingo and Lehtonen both put up huge numbers in the gym this off season and now it is time for them to take the next step in their development as football players.
How do you feel about the U15 playing the Wolverines on Firday?
– The U15 squad has been by far the hardest working unit in our Youth Program. Our team captains Markus Asplund and Niklas Lagström have set the bar high for what it means to be a Rooster and they are ready to go.
– I mean to start the season against a town rival is a huge challenge but the kids are up for it. They have been the ones running the stairs in Kisahalli in January, practicing in the winter of Helsinki in February or even sitting in the classroom watching practice film last December.
– I am also excited to see some of those younger guys get their first playing time this Friday. Jerry Silomaa will start his first game as quarterback and I also need to mention Samuel Tegelberg at this point. I do not believe anyone was more committed than Samuel this off season. Although he may not be much taller than a bar stool he has shown so much heart that I expect him to do great things in the near future.
– Oh and keep an eye out for Eero Peltonen, you may not hear much coming out of his mouth, but his actions on the field are louder than anything.
Any final words?
– Let’s kick off already, haha. I think this is a good time to start thanking everyone who has helped me in the process of doing my job. Thank you to all of those who have said or promised things and have actually done them, haha.
– No but so many people have offered their help and helped coaching or doing other things in the background. Granted we cannot pay anyone so every helping hand is needed and wanted. 2019 is about to start and no matter what; it is another year of the Rooster!!! Let’s go! See you all on Friday.
Roosters U15 vs. Wolverines U15: Friday, May 10th, Helsinki Velodrome, 18:00
Roosters U20 – Seinäjoki Crocodiles U20: Saturday, May 11th, Helsinki Velodrome, 17:00
Text: Roosters Media