December 23, 2015 - 8:00 PM
VERNON - A high school football team in Vernon may not have won any games this year, but it conquered a lot of odds just by getting on the field.
The Seaton Sonics junior football team at Seaton Secondary started the year off with next to no equipment, no funding and many players who had never touched a football before. There hadn’t been a team since 2008, so they were basically starting from scratch, defensive coordinator Lee Elliott says, adding what they did have was determined parents and community coaches willing to put in the hours, and the effort, to get the program up and running again.
“The biggest hurdle was making the kids believe there would even be a team. So many times people had talked about it and it hadn’t happened, so making them believe it would succeed was a challenge,” Elliott says.
One of the more expensive sports to participate in, they had to get creative to outfit the kids in safety gear, which can cost up to $700 per player, head coach Ron Kirschner says.
“The equipment was about 15 to 20 years old,” Kirschner says. “With concussions being a serious thing, having newer style helmets was a first priority. We were lucky enough to get some donated, others we were able to source.”
The team also organized several fundraisers to cover costs and ensure no player was excluded because they couldn't afford it.
Because Seaton’s school field is city-owned, the team didn’t even have a proper football field to practice on. They had no goal posts, and weren’t allowed to paint white lines on the turf. For many players, their first real game was also the first time they’d ever set foot on a true football field.
“We were playing teams with double the amount of players, who’d been playing together for three years already,” Kirschner says.
The Sonics played five games throughout the season and while they lost them all, they won in far more important ways.
“What really put a lump in my throat was the last game, after losing, the kids were in the dressing room and they were ecstatic. Nobody was sad or unhappy or disappointed. For a bunch of guys who’d never seen a football before, they scored more points each game, and got better every game,” Elliott says.
It’s always been about more than the game itself, Elliott says. It’s about players gaining confidence both on and off the field, making new friends, and learning trust and commitment.
Christopher Haber, 14, says he joined the team to improve his athletics but it quickly became about a lot more than that.
“When I started getting into it, it spiralled into a lot of other things that helped me, such as confidence and making new friends. The football program has always had my back, it’s one big family,” Haber says.
Many players made personal triumphs with fitness and accomplished things they never thought they could.
“A few of my friends, and one of my brothers, without football, they’d just sit in the house and play video games,” Shai Baker, 15, says.
The program is quick to support players in every aspect, whether it’s tutoring for classes, or just someone to talk to when life gets tough.
“We’re not just making football players, but building model citizens,” Elliott says.
Parent and overall Sonics ‘team mom’ Marcy Kennedy says there were a lot of hurdles to overcome, but is already looking forward to expanding the program with a seniors team next year.
“The success began the day they got on the field, regardless of the scoreboard,” Kennedy says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015