BUSINESS June 8th, 2015

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Bedford Park quartet start new football camp

Four friends apply baseball camp strategy to startup

Four Bedford Park men are switching from baseball to football this summer, with their First Down Flag Football Camp starting up on July 20.

That’s not to say Gabe Diamond, Jeremy Weisz, Simon Weisz and Lee Berger are hanging up the cleats on their existing business venture, the North Toronto Baseball Camp, which they’ve run for nine years. The quartet of 28-year-olds are simply expanding their business and talents to the gridiron, says co-founder and co-owner, Diamond.

The impetus, he says, was a desire to serve an underserved age bracket: 6–14-year-olds.

“I think if we were to sit here and start a hockey camp — Toronto, Canada — it’s very saturated, whereas (for) football there aren’t as many programs, and certainly not day camps” he said, seated on a bench in David A. Balfour Park. “Kids mostly start in high school.”

The four believe introducing football at a younger age will help spark that interest, and with the trend leaning to less contact — in an effort to avoid concussions — the five-week flag football camp will teach positional skills like quarterback, receiver, rusher and defence without the risk of concussions.

“We’ve specifically been focused on creating a non-contact alternative, which is basically safe and fun for the younger kids and allows them to develop their skills, so if they want to get into contact at a later age they can do so,” Diamond said.

Participants are given a rundown on their strengths and weaknesses, and are given a weekly scouting report, with every player leaving with “something tangible that says, these are my strengths, these are my areas of improvement,” he said.

The response to the new initiative has been positive, as parents of kids participating in the North Toronto Baseball Camp have also enrolled their kids in flag football. Add on partnerships with local amateur sports associations, such as the Toronto Flag Football League, Metro Wildcats and Mooredale Flag Football, and the four have an early lead.

The only dilemma faced was juking the defensive line of bureaucratic red tape.

“I think the major obstacle was certainly the permits,” Diamond admitted. “When dealing with the city, especially with a summer camp, we’re looking for a specific location that also has an indoor facility for when it rains.”

But they were lucky to find a spot at Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, at Avenue Road and Eglinton Avenue West.

The only difference from starting their baseball camp nine years ago and starting a football camp, Diamond said, is the way the parents communicate — on social media.

“Our parents have become quite a bit younger, and are communicating in different ways,” he said. “It’s been a very fascinating transition for us, but being young we’re very equipped to manage it.”