Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Apr 17 2015, Page 46

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - April 17, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE C6 C 6 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2015 SPORTS winnipegfreepress. com A numbers crunch on football officials means Winnipeg’s top high school division will shift its schedule this season to keep games running smoothly. The upside: The Manitoba Football Officials Association hopes the change could pique the interest of aspiring referees. “ Nowadays, with the pace of the game and the number of teams, we certainly could use some assistance,” said MFOA vice- president Bob Madams Thursday. Each year, the MFOA has to recruit and train about five to seven new referees to maintain its stable of about 55 officials. The MFOA saw about five referees leave for 2015, Madams said, and that combined with a small tweak to the Blue Bombers schedule triggered a butterfly effect that has trickled down to amateur leagues. To wit: Because the Bombers are playing three Saturday home games in 2015, the University of Manitoba Bisons had to push three of their four Investors Group Field games to Friday nights. ( Last year, they played two on Friday.) That puts local amateur officials in a bit of a pickle. Though the MFOA has about 55 officials in total, about 35 to 40 are available on any given night. Bisons games take a swath of the most experienced referees and timekeepers, leaving fewer to work for high school games. “ We’re already down a significant amount of people,” Madams said. “ That ( Bisons game- day crew) comes out of my group of 40. Now we’re down to maybe 30 that are available, many of them first- year or second- year guys that aren’t certified for the higher positions yet. It all depends who’s left in the availability pot.” To ease the crunch, this year the Winnipeg High School Football League will look to move most of the games in its top John Potter Division out of their typical Friday night time slot to Thursday night instead. ( The WHSFL’s Kas Vidruk and Andy Currie divisions will see fewer changes to their schedules.) It’s nothing the league can’t handle, WHSFL commissioner Rick Henkewich said, but it does point to the growing demand on local football resources. “ We even looked at, do you want to have one Saturday game? Most of the teams said no,” Henkewich said, noting weekend games can create new schedule challenges with high school athletes. “ We’ll work around it. We know we can probably play four games in the city, send a couple teams out of town.” For Madams, the best- case scenario would be that more referees sign up. The MFOA is looking for men and women of any age who are able to commit to working about 30 games a year. They are especially interested in new female recruits — although the MFOA has had female referees in the past, it doesn’t have any now, and they’d love to be able to dispatch women to officiate the growing girls’ and women’s leagues. Though it won’t make you rich, the work is paid, and for folks who start before age 30 it can open a road to officiate at the CFL level. Being physically fit is important, and of course, you’ve got to love the game. “ You don’t have to be a sprinter,” Madams said. “ If you’re able to move, we can teach you where to be and where to look. That’s the critical part.” Interested applicants can check out the MFOA’s website at mfoa. mb. ca, or drop recruitment and training VP Ardis Oleksyn an email at recruitment@ mfoa. mb. ca. On a related note, the WHSFL will also have to play its annual Senior Bowl in May at the East Side football field, as the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup takes over Investors Group Field. melissa. martin@ freepress. mb. ca Officials shortage wreaks havoc on local gridiron Growing demand for referees will require more recruiting By Melissa Martin The Manitoba Football Officials Association is hoping to recruit extra officials for the upcoming season. A LL these years later, Scott Coates can still remember the days after the accident, the words he said when a doctor told him he would never walk again. He was just 17 years old back then, at the start of a long road recovering from a diving injury that left him partially paralyzed. “ The first thing out of my mouth was, ‘ I’m never going to play hockey again,’ ” Coates said. “ Growing up in a small town, Boissevain, that’s just what we did. You’re able to walk across the street to the rink every day, and go out on the ice, and all of a sudden that’s taken away from you.” In the end, the doctor was wrong: Coates can walk today, with a cane for balance. He still straps on his skates. And it didn’t take long after the accident, which occurred just before a WHL tryout, before he was back in the hockey world again — this time, as a coach instead of a player. “ Anyone who has hockey in their blood just can’t get rid of it,” he said. “ I started coaching right away, after I came back from the hospital... I didn’t want to take time away from it. I wanted to be able to get myself in a position where I could be involved in a team in any way.” The career switch paid off. Coates would go on to enjoy what is now a 23- year coaching career, highlighted when he was an assistant coach on the Humboldt Broncos team that won the 2003 Royal Bank Cup, and when he led the Winnipeg Warriors to a city midget title three years ago. Now, that perseverance has earned Coates and his team a little national recognition — which just so happens to come with a healthy financial reward. On Thursday night, surrounded by his team, Coates formally accepted the grand prize of Cisco Canada’s Hockey Hidden Heroes contest, a national promotion that sought to put a spotlight on unsung heroes of the sport. As far as his hockey colleagues are concerned, it could hardly have gone to someone more deserving. “ He’s a tremendous hockey person,” Hockey Winnipeg vice- president Russ Cassidy said. “ He’s got an impressive resumé, and for young fellows, he absolutely is a role model and an inspiration. He’s got a lot more to overcome than any of our other coaches, and the kids really enjoy being with him and having him as a coach.” The win comes with a $ 20,000 prize for his team, which the Warriors plan to use to defray some of the costs of travel and practice. Amongst the finalists, Coates’ story stood out: He’s overcome so much to stand on the ice today. It wasn’t just the injury or the rehabilitation. It was also the fact he lost both his parents when he was just 16 years old. Maybe that’s why he was able to get back into the hockey world so quickly, Coates mused. He and his sister, Shari, had to grow up fast and lean on each other for support. Today, those experiences have shaped his coaching and his working life. Off the ice he works full time with paraplegics, helping them to get back into the workforce. “ Ever since my injury, that was the direction I wanted to go,” Coates said. “ I’d never really thought much about working with individuals with disabilities before my accident, but once it happens to you, you have a new appreciation for what an individual goes through.” The journey has also shaped how he works with players. Every season, he arranges for the Warriors to take on a local sledge hockey squad, in part to get hands- on experience about what it means to live and play with different physical abilities. “ That was actually really fun,” Warriors goalie Matt Radomsky said. “ It was a cool experience. It’s really hard to balance yourself, it takes a lot of core strength, and you wouldn’t really think about it that much.” melissa. martin@ freepress. mb. ca PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Scott Coates, coach of the Winnipeg Warriors, beams at a national award ceremony Thursday. Hidden Heroes award for coach Highlight of life full of struggle and recovery for Coates By Melissa Martin ‘ He’s a tremendous hockey person. He’s got an impressive resumé, and for young fellows, he absolutely is a role model and an inspiration. He’s got a lot more to overcome than any of our other coaches, and the kids really enjoy being with him and having him as a coach’ — Hockey Winnipeg vice- president Russ Cassidy on Scott Coates C_ 06_ Apr- 17- 15_ FP_ 01. indd C6 4/ 16/ 15 10: 47: 07 PM

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