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University recruiters invade the city

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Once again I’m off to Upper Canada, away for a week.

Child the younger has three home volleyball matches while I’m in Peterborough, and my usual table is waiting at Hot Belly Mama’s, my favourite restaurant in the entire world — catfish, hush puppies, Kansas City ribs with sweet potato fries, and a pint of Wilde Old Ale from the microbrewery in the basement.

We’ve got good seats to see Jets’ top prospect Mark Schiefele play the Peterborough Petes.

And in a weird but neat coincidence, one of my university buddies will be at Trent at the same time. His son is playing for Bishop’s in the stadium in the national lacrosse championships. We’ll have to figure how our genes produced varsity athletes — obviously, attributable to our spouses.

Moving along to the topic in the headline...

The annual universities recruiting fair goes next week, and if your kid is in Grade 11 or Grade 12, you should really think seriously about attending one of the two evening events with her or him. Their classes will likely be going to one of the four daytime events, but the evening events are the best opportunities to get some time with recruiters, and the only ones at which parents are welcome.

The evening events next week are Wednesday at St. John’s-Ravenscourt, and Thursday at Balmoral Hall School, both starting at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, schools designated on a regional basis will be visiting the recruiting fair at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate in the morning and Fort Richmond Collegiate in the afternoon; Friday, St. John’s High in the morning and Miles Macdonell in the afternoon.

SJR universities advisor Peter Brass says that there’ll be dozens of Canadian universities represented again this year.

British Columbia is showing up in a big way, apparently wanting to boost out-of-province numbers, said Brass. He pointed out Quest University from Squamish, which he said is Canada’s only private university. The U of Victoria only comes every few years, and this is your lucky year if you want to go to UVic, as child the elder has done.

Changing topics....

A guy has been giving me grief in a series of emails. I wrote a We Day lead-up story about a girl who went to Kenya to help build a school, and this guy doesn’t believe she carried as much water on her back as she says she did. He wants me to go back to her and give her the third degree, and report back to him with the precise amount of water she carried....sigh.......and he keeps writing, reminding me that he’s still waiting for an answer.

Guess what? You’ll be waiting for quite a while.

On another irritation....not that much irritates me, as you all know.....if you call and tell me you want to talk to me about a problem you’re having with the education system, and leave your cell phone number and tell me to call right away, a couple of helpful things: turn on your cell phone, and activate your voice mail account.

And now for something completely different....

When I get back, I guess I’ll learn if the latest threat to file a formal complaint about me as a soccer referee has gone anywhere.

I was reffing little kids, first match was pretty routine, no problems, and after the match — TMI alert! — I went off to diminish my precious bodily fluids, then wandered back to do the paperwork and prep for my next match. And right above me in the bleachers is a man screaming at me.

I glance up, this guy is in a rage, pointing at me, and bellowing: "You called my kid a cheater, you clown! I’m filing a complaint against you, you piece of (rude word for fecal matter)!!!!!!"

And with that, he spun on his outraged heel and strode off, leaving me bewildered, the little kids on the pitch somewhat taken aback,  and the parents who were clutching their styrofoam coffees for the next little kids’ match wondering what in the world I’d done to some poor child.

And I tried to figure out what had set off the guy, since he may go ahead with his threat. I could think of only one thing.

There’d been several stoppages of play for injuries, none involving fouls, a couple of kids who got a ball in the face and one who’d turned an ankle. Late in the match, a kid goes down while the other team is on the attack and moving towards a good scoring chance. I look, he’s not moving, I look at the ball, I look back at the kid, he’s still not moving, I stop play.

This is something I always do. A kid is hurt, you stop play, I don’t care where the ball is. This kid has been down for several seconds, and he’s not moving, you stop play. I had one outdoor game in which a bellicose parent explained to me rather forcefully that I’ve misunderstood the advantage rule all these years; apparently, when a child is crumpled on the field in pain, or so the parent told me, you ‘play advantage’ by leaving the kid writihing on the ground and letting the other team carry on its attack until it loses possession or scores a goal. But I digress.

As soon as I call the coach onto the field, the kid miraculously springs to his feet, tells the coach there’s nothing wrong with him and never was. Not the first time I’ve had this happen this year. I asked him why he lay unmoving on the field, if he was all right. The coach tells me the boy was just tired. I told the coach that if a player is all right, he’s to get up right away. Otherwise, I told the coach, you don’t want me to start thinking that anyone was trying to trick me into denying a clear scoring chance.

Was that it? Was that what entitles a father to scream at me in front of dozens of children and adults that I’m a piece of fecal matter?


After all these matches since May of 2007, well over 1,000 by now, the only one of these threats that I’m aware was carried out was in my first year of refereeing. It was an 11-year-old girls match, the team lost 5-0, absolutely nothing happened on the field, and when the match ended, the losing coach realized that the opposing team’s bench mom’s spouse had brought over his chair to keep her company about 10 feet behind the bench, and I had failed to catch this egregious violation of everything that global soccer holds sacred.

And he filed a complaint against me.


He pursued it for the next three months, despite both WYSA and WSEU repeatedly turning down his complaints.


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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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