Football continues to thrive at West Hill Collegiate.
Carter Livingstone is entering his eighth year as the senior boys coach and has seen growth over the years, to the point where not having enough equipment at the junior level has become a minor annoyance.
But during Tuesday afternoon’s practice, Livingstone wouldn’t let a small problem get in the way of the bigger picture: students are playing football and not getting into trouble.
“We don’t even have enough equipment at the junior tryouts to suit up all the kids coming out, which is great because that parlays into the senior level,” Livingstone said. “We have 45 guys this year, last year I think it was 35 or 36, so each year we get more kids and it’s just fantastic.
“If they’re with me and the other coaches, they’re not out in the community getting themselves into trouble. It’s a great place for them to learn life skills.”
Livingstone admitted it can be difficult to build a contender when kids don’t always stick around.
“We’ve had some good junior programs come through that have filtered into our senior level program but it’s really hard,” Livingstone said. “We have kids who move out of the area and we have kids who will not necessarily be here for four years so it’s hard to plan.
“Everybody asks me, ‘how do you guys look this year?’ and I don’t know until Sept. 1 when I see who’s registered for school.”
Although it’s a struggle, Livingstone feels he’s assembled a dedicated group of players who are ready to make the jump from junior to senior.
“We have some Grade 11’s ready to step up but it’s a big jump up from junior,” Livingstone said. “This is a positive group and they’re willing to learn.
“It’s a short window to improve but hopefully with every breath they get better on the field and then it goes into our game situations where they can be successful on the field when it comes.”
West Hill’s football program dates back to the school’s founding in 1955 and with a history that includes a 1992 Metro Bowl championship, returning to the big game isn’t going to happen immediately.
“You’re always striving to do something like that but it doesn’t happen over night,” Livingstone said. “It’s the ability to build a program and we have a good foundation at the junior level with coaches who are committed to help the kids learn the game and they’re taking that forward into senior.
“It has to be a good combination of the two. Without a good junior program, you’re never going to win Metro Bowls.”
Slotback Cardinal Licorish is in his third year with the Warriors program and buys into Livingstone’s coaching plan.
“He’s amazing and is always pushing us even when we win, too,” Licorish said. “We want to get better and we really want the championship this year.”
At the end of the day, the Warriors are students first and athletes second.
“Out of 45 kids, we only have a handful of kids who are in jeopardy of not being eligible by West Hill standards because we have a firm academic policy for our student athletes that we definitely take seriously,” Livingstone said. “They’re here to get their credits, they’re not here just to play football or basketball.
“It’s really important for them to be successful in their classrooms.”