Coach has 40 years in SMAA

SMAA coach James Dekelver instructs one of his players at a practice in Sarnia’s Agincourt Park. Troy Shantz, for The Journal

Barry Wright

When the leaves begin to turn and the air starts to cool, you’ll know where to find Jamie Dekelver.

He’ll be roaming the sidelines coaching SMAA minor football.

“I started (coaching) when I was in high school in 1977,” he said.  “I was coaching with my father for a couple of years and I just continued on from there.”

The development of young players, individually and as a team, is a passion for Dekelver.

“Right now, they’re just a random group of (12-and 13-year-old) kids, but two months from now they’ll be a close-knit team and that’s rewarding to see,” the coach said.

“We teach them the importance of teamwork and the commitment they have to make to their teammates and coaching staff.”

That coaching staff includes James Bennett, Mark Moretten and Brian Gilbert.

“We’ve been together for about a dozen years now and we’re all on the same page as far as what we’re teaching, and what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said.

Dekelver, who played SMAA football before coaching, says close to 300 kids will suit up for teams this season, broken into three divisions ages seven to 13.

Teams are chosen by the league convenor with the goal of keeping them competitive.

“The program is really healthy and getting healthier every year,” he said.

Minor football training received as elementary school-aged players gives most of them a leg up when trying out for high school football teams, said Dekelver. Most SMAA players play high school ball and a handful go on to play college football.

Following a series of controlled scrimmages this week, the league begins its regular schedule on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 10 a.m.

Games are played at Norm Perry Park Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

The three championship games are scheduled for Nov. 1.