He may be the prime minister of Canada, but at a recent volleyball game in Calgary,
Stephen Harper was just another parent sitting in the stands, cheering on his son, Ben.
Not that it stopped the Ottawa Fusion coach from using Harper’s considerable political status to motivate the team at the bronze medal match against Surrey’s Eagles at the national volleyball championships.
When the Fusion players were looking a little defeated during their second game against the U-15 Eagles, the Ottawa coach reminded them, “You’re playing in front of the freaking prime minister of Canada! Pick up your socks,” recalls local parent Lynne Robinson, who accompanied her son Mitchell’s team to the tournament.
She also acted as scorekeeper, giving her a unique vantage point to observe the goings on at court level.
After pulling out to an early lead, the Eagles lost their first game against Ottawa 23-25 before taking game two 25-18 – in spite of the opposing team’s motivational strategy.
In game three, Fusion established an early lead that proved insurmountable to the Eagles, and they fell 15 to 9.
Harper’s son was in the starting lineup, suggesting he’s a good athlete, says Robinson, who adds their team was impressive.
Competing in Calgary was an intense and exciting experience for the Eagles, a U-15 B.C. Volleyball Association team that practices out of Clayton Heights and Fraser Heights secondary schools.
As B.C. silver medalists, the Eagles were ranked 9th going into the tournament, which featured the top 32 teams from across the country.
The Eagles played nine hard-fought matches, including one against hometown rivals the Fraser Valley Blues, who’d beaten them in the provincials. This time, the Eagles soared, winning the best of three, and guaranteeing them a top eight finish.
A win in the quarter finals against Alberta Kings was followed by a loss to the tourney hosts, Calgary Canucks, sending the Eagles into the bronze medal match against Ottawa Fusion.
Player Mitchell Robinson was named to the all star team for the tournament – meaning he was one of only six players from across the country singled out for the distinction.
After the match, the team posed for a photo with the prime minister.
“And the whole thing was an experience they will likely tell their grandchildren about,” says Lynne Robinson.
“It’s not every day you get to meet the Prime Minster, let alone play in front of him.”