Canadian Football League Hosting Open Tryouts In Carlsbad

Try Out for the Canadian Football League in Carlsbad!

Photo by AP Photo/Steve Helber

If you have ever dreamed of competing for a spot on a professional football team, your opportunity knocks. Carlsbad-based California Sports Institute is bringing three Canadian Football League teams to Carlsbad for the first Free Agent West Coast CFL Combine on April 1st-3rd. If you are not currently under contract with a professional football team and are one year removed from high school, you are officially a free agent and can join the open tryouts by registering at CFL Tryouts.

The General Managers, coaching, and scouting staff from the Toronto Argonauts, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and Saskatchewan Roughriders will be in attendance as pro-football hopefuls from all over North America run through a typical combine workout. The combine will run over three days: the first day consists of weight-lifting, timed speed drills, and metrics testing. The last two days will consist of outdoor full-field padded practices divided by position.

California Sports Institute Director of Science and Sports Performance Chris Munford will oversee the events. Munford organized the CFL combine after sending a few of his clients to the trials held by the CFL last year. “After having a few of my athletes attend a couple of them last year, I thought that we at the California Sports Institute could do a significantly better job and reduce the amount of traveling around the country that teams had to do, and give young players a better shot at being evaluated thoroughly,” says Munford. “Traditionally, each individual CFL team scours the US and holds open combines. The process traditionally has not been well-run. [It's] too short to properly evaluate guys, usually over a 90 minute period, and has generally been poorly received by the players who have gone through the process.”

Munford knows a thing or two about the CFL process. He was born and raised outside Toronto and played six years as a CFL Cornerback. The CFL procedure to fill roster spaces starts with a Canadian-born citizens-only draft, followed by GMs, scouts and coaches from the individual teams blindly searching for that difference-maker to add to their franchise. Munford saw a void in the process and decided that he could change the landscape for getting talented players onto active CFL rosters. “I contacted the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I have a close relationship with their General Manager and head coach, as they are former athletes of mine whom I’ve trained. [We] discussed the process, and they were excited to see how I could build this out,” says Munford. 

The Free Agent CFL Combine isn’t Munford’s first foray into changing the game when it comes to athletics. At CSI, Munford has a unique approach to athletic training that sets him apart from the saturated athletic training mecca of Southern California: science. Munford is obsessed with the way things work. Mentally, physically, nutritionally, everything is linked and everything is fair game. “The high performance coach needs to completely understand the sport: the positions of the sport the athlete plays, the physiological and psychological requirements of the sport, and the playing position demands placed upon the athlete. This requires a scientifically driven, in-depth procedure and analytical process to fully understand the needs of the athlete in relationship to the sport,” Munford believes.

He travels the world training athletes in every sport across the board to excavate their highest potential. Before his clients have even warmed up, Munford has already begun his methodical study into the player and their sport. Munford learns how his athlete ticks, studies their sport to understand the mental demands of the position, and interviews the athlete’s coaches to gage their strengths and weaknesses both on and off of the field or court.

Next, films of the biomechanics, bouts of movement, and rate of force of well-established elite athletes in the same sport, age, and position are painstakingly reviewed and run through computer programs to generate potential risk for injury, muscular short-comings, and success rates that makes those athletes paragon. Munford explains that this step in training is necessary for players wanting to reach elite status, and one that is not commonly done. “This can be a very tedious process. A point guard in basketball can display 5,000 different Bursts of Motion in half of [a game of] basketball! However, to truly understand all the physiological elements of the sport and prepare the training program to address these elements, this is a vital and necessary undertaking of legitimately-trained high performance sports coaches. We do this and try to use the ‘best of the best’ at the position you play as a bench mark to drive your training." After the extensive film and computer analysis of the top athletes in said position, Munford turns his sights toward his client and the same painstaking evaluation is done. And then, the cultivation begins. 

California Sports Institute in Carlsbad

Munford, then-President of Ego Performance Training, has churned out athletes who have competed in 11 World Championships, 4 Olympic games, and 3 Pan-AM games. They also oversaw the conditioning of an NBA franchise. Lately, Munford has been racking up quite a few notable NFL players to add to his impressive resume because of an unexpected encounter in his son’s kindergarten class. In 2014, Munford met Nick Barnett, a former Packer and Super Bowl champion, when their sons became friends in kindergarten. The two partnered last year to form California Sports Institute in Carlsbad, which naturally shifted CSI to position itself as a leader in football preparation. Barnett, who spent 11 seasons as an NFL middle linebacker, is the Director of Athlete and Agent Engagement at California Sports Institute.

While Munford hails from the School of Science and Hard Data, Barnett hails from the school of Hard Knocks and Hard Hits. As a first-round draft pick for the Green Bay Packers in 2003, Barnett knows what teams are looking for in a player (he will run the linebackers through the CFL combine workouts). Though it isn’t just the 2016 draft class or free agents that interest Barnett; his focus is on younger athletes as well. CSI is expanding its repertoire to include kids’ conditioning and will run the first California Sports Institute non-contact Football Camp in August.

Barnett says that the decision to do a non-contact camp came because of the on-going question looming over the sport’s safety. “Look, I love football. Some of my greatest memories are of the last play of that game, or stopping that big run. But we are looking at the entire injury risk of every player at CSI. We want our athletes to play as long as possible, and that means gearing our training to keep injury-potential low. This starts with teaching kids the right way to run, plant, and jump mechanically. And that also means doing right by the kids and limiting contact as much as possible," says Barnett.

Barnett’s approach to youth coaching is similar to the methodical training philosophy of Munford: assess the individual, play to their strengths, and correct any imbalances as you go. “I think sports in general can be a great tool in helping kids develop strong leadership qualities... Every kid is different and has different needs. If the player is not executing, then it is the coach’s responsibility to figure out how to get it from the player,” says Barnett.

With the inaugural California Sports Institute Free Agent Combine, the California Sports Institute is already changing the output of quality players to benefit football. If you’re football ready, your chance to tryout is just one week away. If you could first use some excavation to bring forth your inner Aaron Rodgers, California Sports Institute has the science to make that a reality. And if athletic ability skipped a generation, CSI has a solution for that too. Information on the CSI youth football camp will be available at California Sports Institute.