After playing football for the first time last September, EDSS student Karsten Smith has been selected to play for team Ontario at next week’s U16 Easter Regional Challenge, held in Sackville, NB.
The Grade 9 student, who played hockey, was encouraged to try the new sport by coach Alex Derma.
“I started out. Obviously, I wasn’t very good when I started but the coaches that I had really helped me become better. And I guess I just have a decent amount of speed for the position I play that I can use that to my advantage,” said Smith who plays defensive line.
Smith played on the defensive line for the Lancers last fall and for the Waterloo Predators regional AA team this spring.
Predators defensive line coach Matthias Stein said Smith’s athleticism is what makes him stand out at the position.
“It seems like he has a good base of physicality. He’s got a good mentality for the game. And just a good base of athleticism that really just sets him apart from a lot of the other players. It seems like he just took really well to our coaching styles that we have put to him, so he’s just an awesome kid to try and coach and definitely learned very quickly,” Stein said.
Having played other sports has also helped, Stein added.
“That just gives a good basis of athleticism that just helped them succeed a little more quickly than other kids,” he said.
While he does have some decent size, his speed helps against bigger opponents, Smith said.
“Especially at my age, normally the O-linemen are a little on the slower side and mostly big-body guys. So being able to have that speed I can use some hand movements to knock away their hands so they can’t touch me and normally get around quickly,” he said.
After going through three separate tryouts to make the provincial team, including a team scrimmage, Smith was overwhelmed to find out he’d made the cut.
“At first I didn’t really believe it, because definitely it was very overwhelming playing against people who have been playing their whole life. I kind of felt like an outsider, so it definitely didn’t feel real at first,” he said.
“It took some time to actually believe that I made it.”
Smith’s mom Deanna credited his coaches that have helped him make it this far in a short amount of time.
“He played hockey all his life. If you would have said last year he’s going to play for team Ontario football, I would have probably said, ‘yeah, OK.’ Grade 7 he didn’t want to play. The coach here at EDSS encouraged him. Good coaches will say ‘let’s push yourself and see what you can do,” Deanna said.
“To be able to pick it up that quickly and make team Ontario, his dad and I are pretty proud of him,” she added.
Predators head coach Kevin Thompson said they are very pleased with Smith making the team.
“Within our group, he leads by example and is an inspiration to his teammates,” Thompson said via email.
Smith adds to a large contribution from EDSS athletes, Thompson added.
“[This includes] Hunter Brown (OL), Sam Brown (DL), Evan Hori (LB), Keaten Kidd (LB) Eric Gingerich (WR) and Orrin Schieck (RB). Our offensive line coach and current UW Warrior player, Jacob Fulcher, is also an EDSS alumni,” he said.
Seeing Smith selected for the provincial team felt great, Stein said.
“Just having a guy like Karsten get selected for the team that shows that his hard work is paying off, and he’s definitely going to see a lot of good returns for his hard work,” he said.
Going forward Smith hopes to get better both as a team and individually.
“My goal is next year for high school to win it all, at least for our division. That’d be awesome, especially because it hasn’t been done for a long time. That’s my main goal for now. Obviously I want to improve and play for Waterloo again and hopefully Cambridge, which is a triple-A team instead of an double-A team – maybe in future years. I want to try to make team Ontario again,” he said.