The latest BC Lions program for teens aims to teach both football and life skills to Indigenous youth in the Lower Mainland.
Three players with the CFL football team were at Newton’s Frank Hurt Secondary on March 31 for the first of several camps organized under the BC Lions Indigenous Youth Program banner, on fields in Surrey, Vancouver and Abbotsford.
Under blue skies in Newton that Wednesday afternoon, Andrew Peirson, David Knevel and Matt Guevremont led more than a dozen students through a warm-up before teaching throwing and catching skills, flag-football style.
It’s all part of the team’s Orange Shirt initiative to build relationships with Indigenous communities, and show teens some teamwork and leadership skills they can use off the field.
“We’ve been recruiting for the past couple of weeks, and I had a good 20 in mind for this program,” said Leanne MacDonald, Indigenous enhancement child and youth care worker at Frank Hurt.
“I love the mix, that it’s Grade 8 through 10, and they get to meet each other outside of school hours, and some of them have never met each other, right.
“The fact that the B.C. Lions are here, it’s exciting and amazing – it’s huge for the students,” MacDonald added. “And it gives them an opportunity to try something that most of them haven’t tried before.”
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^^ VIDEO shows @andrewpeirson of @BCLions talking about the team's new Indigenous Youth Program, and memories of football camps in Kingston, Ont.— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) April 6, 2022
STORY: https://t.co/IvXSLc6kSd pic.twitter.com/CmLwLM77Dv
The Frank Hurt flag-football squad is among four created this spring, ahead of a special tournament and barbecue April 23 at Tom Binnie Park, on the turf field next to the Lions training facility in Whalley. Later, the football camp-ers are invited to a May 1 workshop at Creekside Community Centre in Vancouver.
“They get to go to a game later, and get a T-shirt with their favourite number on it,” MacDonald explained. “There are those perks too. We’re the Surrey team, and we recruited from Delta and another Surrey school as well.”
Peirson, an offensive lineman with the Lions, looked pumped to teach the students the game of football at Frank Hurt, along with teammates Knevel and Guevremont.
“Lots of numbers but most importantly, great effort,” Peirson said during a water break. “Everyone’s coming with an open mind, number one, having fun and hopefully learning some fun stuff from us as well.”
Peirson said he remembers attending similar football camps back in Kingston, Ont., where he grew up.
“I remember Rob Bagg from the Saskatchewan Roughriders coming back and doing something similar to what we’re doing right now,” Peirson recalled. “I took a lot from coaches and players before me, so it’s our duty to give it back, all that we’ve taken.”
Some elements of football translate to real life, he agreed.
“You hear that all the time,” Peirson added, “but there are other things you can learn, even from the first practice, that are going to translate into the real world – having fun, enjoying what you’re doing. You know, if you don’t catch the ball on your first route, keep learning, keep improving, taking those little steps forward go a long way.”
Other Lions player-coaches at the Indigenous camps are Nathan Rourke, Bo Lokombo, Sukh Chungh, Peter Godber, Ben Hladik, Michael O’Connor, Isaiah Guzylak-Messam, Jacob Scarfone and Joel Figueroa.
Posted to bclions.com, a minute-long video of the March 31 practice at Frank Hurt shows a pre-camp smudging ceremony led by Wally Lavigne, an elder with Surrey-based Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association (FRAFCA).
The program is presented by Prospera Credit Union and supported by BC Hydro, Pomerleau Construction, Fortis BC and Leavitt Machinery, and the Lions partnered with Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (I·SPARC) to bring it all together.
I·SPARC CEO Rick Brant said the organization is grateful for the Lions’ efforts to improve the health and well-being of Indigenous youth. The program’s training and skill development “will have a positive and lasting impact on the lives of Indigenous athletes, both on and off the field,” Brant said.
Sport has the power to transform individuals in so many positive ways, said Jamie Taras, Lions director of community partnerships. “I know our players will benefit from these relationships as much as the participants will.”