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This article was published 19/3/2019 (270 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jeffrey Bannon has done a little bit of everything in the local football scene.
He’s been a coach, a club president, a general manager and a marketing director, and now, Bannon can add league commissioner to his football resumé.
The Winnipeg High School Football League announced Monday that Bannon will be the new commissioner of the league. Bannon takes over from Rick Henkewich, who served in that post for the past six years. Bannon is on a two-year volunteer term in the position.
"The ability to help the next generation and the leaders of tomorrow is an honour," Bannon, GM of four Tim Hortons franchises, told the Free Press. "It’s a small privilege, and if I can do my part, I’m all happy for it and I get goosebumps just talking about it. Hopefully, one day, I can inspire someone else to become the next commissioner or the next coach and give back to the community, and that’s extremely important to me."
Bannon spent the past two seasons as a coach at Garden City Collegiate, where he helped start the school’s nine-man junior varsity team. He’s also coached the North Winnipeg Nomads Football Club — where he also served as the club’s president — and at the provincial level with the U16 team. He’s currently involved with the provincial U18 team as general manager.
On a professional level, Bannon worked for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for nearly a decade. He was the team’s director of marketing, retail and community relations from 2005-14.
In his new role, Bannon said his main priorities are the safety of the athletes, the development of coaches and successfully marketing the league.
"We have a lot of athletes that go on to U Sports and even the CFL. The ability to showcase our athletes at home would be one of my top three (priorities)," Bannon said. "The ability to have people recognize there is talent in Manitoba, there is talent in the Winnipeg High School Football League, which extends to northwestern Ontario, as well. We’re very passionate about that. We feel we need to showcase our athletes internally a little bit better, and that would be my top priority."
One of the ways Bannon plans to do that is by putting a bigger emphasis on social media and digital marketing. Henkewich believes Bannon is the man to tackle that.
"Jeff is very conversive with all the social-media aspects," Henkewich said. "I don’t know what Twitter is, or (Snapchat), or any of those things. Kids respond and reflect to that more than ever now."
After six years, Henkewich said he felt it was time to pass the torch to someone else. He plans to stay involved in the sport in other ways, as he will continue to be a part of the Football Manitoba Hall of Fame committee and work with Sport Manitoba and the province on concussion protocols.
"Six years is a long time," he said. "I think we did take the league in a good direction. After six years, you kind of get tunnel vision, and I really didn’t want that to happen.
"I wanted the league to continue growing successfully and going in the right direction."
Bannon has, for obvious reasons, had to step down as coach of Garden City’s football program. It’s bittersweet, but Bannon believes he can make a bigger difference in his new position.
"I feel like, at the end of the day, I love coaching. But I also love the fact that I can learn and grow and be around coaches that much more now in this role and help a wider range of athletes, versus just one team," he said. "That was really exciting to me."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.