Feeling Patriot-ic about football in inner-city

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/05/2010 (4594 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Until last year, if Jason Partyka had wanted to play organized football he would have had to travel from his West End home to play for the St. James Rods or the North Winnipeg Nomads.

Instead, the 10-year-old Sargent Park School student had a chance to be a part of something new.

Thanks to the work of many groups — including the Maroons Football Alumni of Daniel McIntyre Collegiate and the Valour Community Centre — the Valour Patriots football club was born, fielding three teams in 2009.

Submitted Last year’s Valour Patriots teams were as diverse as the neighbourhoods they call home.

For the first time in many years, kids like Partyka — and others in neighbourhoods like Wolseley, West Broadway, Weston, Brooklands and West Alexander — would be able to pass, catch, block and tackle for a “home” team.

“I was watching the CFL and the tackle football at Tec Voc (High School) and decided I wanted to play tackle,” said Partyka, who was a running back in his first season with the Patriots atom team. “It was really fun. I’m going to do it this year, no doubt.”

This year, as a member of the club’s peewee squad, he has his sights set on playing quarterback.

Craig Bauer, a Wolseley resident whose son had previously been playing for the Crescentwood Grizzlies, decided to get involved with the new club as a coach and administrator.

“For me this was a chance to get involved with a new program and at the same time to have a vehicle to hone my coaching skills and try to play a bigger part in the livelihood of the program as a whole,” said Bauer, who coached Partyka’s atom team and will be working with the peewees this year.

After taking on about 70 players last season, the Patriots are hoping to add a second terminator (7-8 years old) team as well as a minor bantam (13 years old) team this year, bringing the total to close to 100 players.

Don McPherson, a Daniel McIntyre alumni who, despite living in St. Andrews, decided he wanted a hand in building the Patriots, said less than 10 of those kids had ever played football prior to last year.

“It was a new sport for most of them,” McPherson said. “But the parents were very enthusiastic and it was a huge success.”

Drawing from such an ethnically and economically diverse catchment area, the Patriots are as multi-cultural a football club as you’ll find anywhere in Winnipeg.

“Last year we had recent immigrant children from parts of East Africa, we had aboriginal kids in the mix and some Filipino players,” Bauer said. “I think it’s great to give kids… the opportunity to see that in the name of fair play and good sportsmanship it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, or the colour of your skin.”

While young members of the community now have a chance to meet kids from different backgrounds through sport — Partkya said he didn’t know a single teammate before joining the Patriots last year — the area’s high schools now have a chance to rebuild their once-proud football programs.

Daniel Mac revived its program in 2006, but had a student body with little or no football experience. McPherson expects the Patriots to change that.

“We realized if we wanted to get better, we had to build a feeder program in the neighbourhood,” he said. “So now kids can come in who have played for six or seven years before high school.”

The Patriots are holding their registration for this season on May 6 and 7, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., and on May 8, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Valour Community Centre, 715 Telfer St. N.

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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