Calgary Stamps visit Pincher Creek, help kids learn the ins and outs of football

·4 min read

Young football players from Alberta and British Columbia gathered at Matthew Halton Field April 22 to brush up their skills and learn techniques from Calgary Stampeders Richie Sindani and Tre Roberson.

It was the first time in two years the Pincher Creek Mustangs hosted the event and the first public event of the season on Matthew Halton High School’s field.

Teens and kids dashed across turf under the bright afternoon sun, executing running plays, practising throws and catches and perfecting their line of scrimage stance. All participants had the opportunity to partake in timed running exercises, hurdle drills and agility ladder speed tests.

Faith Zachar, president of the Mustangs, has been running the event for 20 years, and she’s seen the program grow from small beginnings to an event that draws youth from as far as Lethbridge, Red Deer and Bow Island. This year about 35 kids attended.

Many youths discover their love and passion for the sport through the event, she said, with some pursuing it beyond small-town community games.

“We’ve had some of our kids go on to play for the Colts in Calgary, and we had one who went to the University of Regina and he played there for five years and he was an all-star every year. He’s one of our best-ever players,” she recalled, referring to Cord Delinte.

Fifteen-year-old Brayden Smith came all the way from Elkford, B.C., to spend the afternoon learning from Sindani and Roberson. He said it was his first time kicking a football around on an actual field, but added that he’s always been a fan of the sport, having followed the Saskatchewan Roughriders closely for many years.

Nathaniel Spear Chief, a junior at Matthew Halton, was interested in joining the event other years, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. He said he’s been considering trying out for his school’s football team for a while, and wanted to pick up some tips beforehand.

Sindani and Roberson enjoyed teaching the kids, seeing them take an interest in the same sport that brought them joy as young players.

Sindani, currently a wide receiver, started playing football in Regina at the age of 12, originally having developed an interest in the sport through video games.

Roberson, a defensive back, started even earlier, at age six. Originally from Indiana, he’s played for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears in addition to the Stampeders.

“It’s been a part of our life forever, since we’ve been a part of this world,” said Sindani. “Being able to play and give back is kind of a dream.”

Neither Stampeder had been to Pincher Creek before and they were just as excited about the view driving in as they were about teaching the kids.

As for the field, it was recently refurbished to prepare for the upcoming sports season, a process that included painting line markers on the turf and replacing the old and decrepit bleachers. The older bleachers were recycled and replaced with newer aluminum models.

“Our team has been doing a very good job of going over that field — just combing the field for spots where there are issues, where there are sprinkler heads sticking out, where there are some holes that are dug by dogs sometimes or gophers,” said Brock Leavins, co-ordinator of parks and open space.

“That’ll make a big quality difference in the field.”

In the coming month, the town will begin aerating the field to increase moisture retention in the soil, making the ground softer and allowing the grass to grow better. This will be accompanied by repairs to the irrigation system, which is partially broken.

A good field makes all the difference, said Faith, and often improves the game.

Faith has been a football fan her whole life. Growing up on the outskirts of Ottawa, she would accompany her parents to Ottawa Rough Riders games and watch Russ Jackson play.

Now she’s a Stampeders fan and her husband, Charlie, cheers for Edmonton. They have season tickets and make a point of seeing most games played on home soil, attending in their contrasting red and green jerseys.

They’ve seen two Grey Cup games in Calgary and a few others in Vancouver, Toronto and Regina, sometimes sitting in bleachers in -30 temperatures.

“Football’s a great game. You can have up to 40 players on a team… everybody has a job and they’re all important,” she said, adding that she believes the sport is excellent at helping children develop self-confidence and learn to be team players.

“They love it,” she said. “They’re just so keen. Our teams have been really tight-knit.”

Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting