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Coaches at any level of amateur or professional sport will always have problems to confront- before, during and after a season.

It’s the nature of the beast and the head coach of the Ponoka Broncs football program has a problem to plan around for the 2019 football season. He has close to 50 players wanting to suit up for the upcoming Central Alberta Football League Bantam season. It’s a symptom of a program which has gotten better each year based not only on their record but how they build from within.

“There’s so many different options that are fighting for a kid’s attention and I think if you make the program something that’s worthwhile, something they can be passionate about they’ll come,” said Todd Lewis who is going into year five as the sideline boss.

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He says when young athletes are passionate about something, they tell their friends and it explains why this program has grown each year. So, what makes them want to come out and play for the Broncs?

“You only have two hours for practice, and I think organizing your practice in a way that everybody is moving, everybody is learning, everybody is feeling included and valued-that’s how you get people invested,” he said.

The result of this plan is players are learning, getting challenged by teammates, by coaches and having fun which makes practice worthwhile, said Lewis.

He has some help when it comes to recruiting, retaining and teaching the latest crop of Broncs in the form of returning player numbers which has increased over the years. Those players get plenty of credit for the program as it continues to advance.

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“Any given year owes a lot of thanks to the years before it based on how many returning players come back. The more returning players that come back, the more knowledge and football IQ and skill and passion they bring with them,” he said. “When you have that core, it’s not just the coaches teaching them, it’s all these returning players that are modelling it and that’s as powerful, if not more powerful than anything any coach can say.”

With an abundance of players on the squad this year (48 at last count) Lewis says his big issue is making sure practice will keep everyone occupied for the right amount of time to learn and not get restless. He is looking forward to the challenge and the reward at the end of it all.

“If we can keep all of them for next year, we’re going to have 35 returnees, Grade Eights and Nines and the new Grade Sevens and hopefully more Grade Eights and Nines.”

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If one needed any more proof as to the success of the Broncs formula Lewis pointed out nine graduating Grade 12 students this year were former players he coached. Some are going on to play university ball and one even helped coach the offence during the annual Jamboree this Spring.

“That’s exactly what I wanted five years ago and pretty cool to see,” he said.

There in lies the definition of how a program can expand by laying down a solid base and have returning players come back to add to it. Building from within and everybody wins.

Seems to be a great template to work from.

The Broncs open at home September 7th against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders.