Cougars build chemistry, learn to surf at annual beach outing

Photo courtesy of COC football

Staying in shape for football is a year-round endeavor for the College of the Canyons football team. Even throughout the summer, there’s plenty of lifting and practices to get to.

But on Friday, July 19, the Cougars abandoned dry land for a day at the “College of the Canyons Beach Extravaganza,” as it was dubbed by COC offensive line coach Marc Dumlao.

“This is the perfect opportunity for kids that don’t know each other, have no experience doing anything so they’re all going to be goofy and awkward and everyone laughs,” said head coach Ted Iacenda. “So it’s the perfect environment for these kids to relax and let their guard down and get to know each other on a real level, not just a football practice level.”

The idea was first hatched by Dumlao, an avid surfer, in 2014. It was originally a team bonding activity for the offensive line, but it expanded to include the defensive linemen the following year. Now, it’s an event open to players of any position.

There’s football games on the beach, food and of course, surfing. Dumlao hauled six surfboards to Mondos Beach in Ventura County for anyone who wanted to give it a try.

Iacenda said a handful of players with no surfing experience hopped on a board, but most got cold or frustrated after about 15 minutes. Some, however, thrived.

“You always get one or two kids that just get that rush and they don’t want to put the board down the whole day,” Iacenda said.

Khalib Johns, a linebacker from Antelope Valley High School headed into his sophomore season with the Cougars, was one of those kids. He was named the “Surfer of the Day” after having the best ride witnessed by his teammates.

With kids at the beach riding waves all day, Iacenda said it’s pretty easy to motivate the players. After all, if a preteen can stand up on a surfboard, why can’t they?

In addition to getting junior college football players to try a new sport, the surf competition helps the group develop a sense of team ahead of the season. With the constant turnover of junior college programs, it can be difficult to create a unified group.

“I’m real big on family atmosphere and coming together as a team and chemistry and camaraderie,” Iacenda said. “Those are tried and true values that I always want my program to have. At this level especially, it doesn’t just happen. We have to work hard at it.”

Last season, COC went 10-0 to win the SCFA National Division, Northern League title. Plenty of sophomores will return this season and mixing the incoming freshmen in with the returners will be crucial to the Cougars’ success.

In order to do that, Iacenda keeps a list “a mile long” of possible team bonding activities. Every Thursday is “competition Thursday” and players compete in activities ranging from a home run competition to a lemonade-making contest.

“We’re constantly trying to think of ways to manufacture that interaction so it’s not so business-like,” Iacenda said. “It’s not just football, it’s not just lifting or running but how do we get this group to interact, to learn to win, how to lose, how to win graciously? It doesn’t just happen on Saturday nights. It happens long before that.”

Canyons begins fall camp on Monday, Aug. 12 and will test the bonds it forged as a team in its first game of the season on Sept. 7 when they host Saddleback College at 6 p.m.

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