If Shane Thompson had his way, he would have quit football.
But it was made abundantly clear that quitting was not an option.
Up until that point, Thompson had played school and intramural sports, but nothing outside of those.
His father Ernest — a semiprofessional hockey player — was insistent that his son play organized sport, so a family friend suggested the younger Thompson give football a shot.
The 12-year-old obliged and after a less-than stellar introduction to the sport — “I remember getting demolished at practice and I was going to quit,” Thompson recalled — but his father explained that quitting was not going to happen.
And by sticking with it, Thompson has forged a life-long passion for the gridiron game.
“Football is different, it is the ultimate team game and you are part of a group, part of a team and you are contributing with everybody else, whether you are scoring a touchdown or not,” Thompson explained.
He stuck with the game, playing through the ranks of the Renfrew football organization and developed into an outstanding defensive tackle.
Thompson graduated to the junior ranks, playing with the Renfrew Trojans and his then collegiately with the University of Montana Grizzlies.
And when school didn’t pan out, he returned to Vancouver and finished his junior eligibility with the Trojans.
Showing enough promise, Thompson found his way onto the B.C. Lions practice roster, but an off-field head injury ended his playing days.
But some 40 years after first strapping on the pads, the game still plays a central role in Thompson’s life.
On Sunday, at half-time of the B.C. Lions game against the Montreal Alouettes, Thompson and members of the 1982 Vancouver Trojans were honoured for their induction into the B.C. Football Hall of Fame. The induction took place earlier that day.
That team was the first from British Columbia since the Vancouver Blue Bombers in 1947 to win the Canadian Junior Football League championship.
The Trojans are considered by many as the last “genuine” community-based team from B.C. to win the national junior championship with their entire roster — including all the coaching staff — being raised in the Lower Mainland and all having played either community or high school football locally prior to joining the Trojans.
Thompson, who was in his early 20s, was a coach with the Trojans.
He was persuaded to come out and give it a try by the team’s head coach, Dave Easley, who played in the CFL from 1969 to 1976. And from there, the coaching bug stuck with Thompson.
After coaching at the junior level with the Trojans and then later with the Abbotsford Air Force, Thompson took a break for a few years. In 1999, his son Cody — who is now 20 — took up the sport.
“I was a parent for the first few years and then felt like they needed some help,” Thompson said.
He has been a full-time coach since 2004 and is currently the head coach of the Langley Minor Football midget Stampeders, as well as serving as the head of coaching for the Vancouver Mainland Football League.
The Stampeders have a staff of seven coaches — including Thompson — two managers and a trainer.
Despite his defensive background, Thompson concentrated more on the offensive side of the ball.
It also eliminated him having to coach Cody — a defensive back — directly, something he believes is a no-win situation for any parent/coach.
“I think it is a bad thing, nothing good can come of that,” he explained. “If a kid does something wrong, you are all over him. (And) if they do something right, you are all over them the other way and it becomes a difficult situation.”
“I don’t know if I am a good coach or not, but what I do is communicate with the kids, make sure they understand the game,” Thompson said.
“I don’t over-coach, I let players’ instincts take over in the game and I don’t stymie them.”
Thompson says that he enjoys coaching more than he did playing.
“You are allowed to use your creativity, teach kids what you know, see them get to the next level.
“And that is my big thing, make sure kids are prepared for the next level. That to me is rewarding.”
Coaching is a full-time job, albeit one without pay.
Thompson works at a warehouse and distribution company in Annacis Island.
Each week, about seven hours are spent on practice, with another four hours devoted to game time. Add in the time spent studying film and game planning.
Altogether, it amounts to roughly 30 hours per week.
Thompson says having a job with set work hours helps.
“I have done this (coaching) for so long, I have learned to manage my time during the football season,” he explained.
“I know what time I need to put aside for film and for practices.”