Gaining the support of the community you play in requires more than simply winning on the field, says Elise Pastro.
The Westshore Rebels club president is doing her best to show that players who suit up for the team this season and subsequent ones are respectful and take seriously the role they play on and off the field.
“We’ve told the players, ‘you need to be seen to be embraced by the community,’” Pastro says, explaining that means in a positive way.
Player volunteer efforts at such charity functions as McHappy Day at McDonald’s and Camp Day at Tim Horton’s, and Minor Football Day have helped, she says. So did having a handful of Rebels accompany her to pick up the team’s second-place plaque for the Favourite Local Sports Team in Black Press’ Best of the City reader’s survey.
“Our mantra this year is ‘Turn it Around,’” Pastro says.
Fielding a mostly local team in a highly competitive provincial junior football league might not seem like the best on-the-field strategy, with other teams recruiting talented players from across Western Canada.
But Pastro says the club executive and coaches have determined the best way to repair the team’s negative reputation in some sectors of the community is to improve the team chemistry. Incidents involving bad behaviour by players in recent years have partly been a byproduct of bringing in out-of-town players who may not care about the community, she says.
Les Bryan, former club president and these days a team parent – his son, Connor, is an offensive lineman – agrees.
“There’s something about keeping it local,” he says. “You bring a superstar in and it changes the team chemistry. Often they’re only here for a year, whereas these guys have all played together or against each other in high school.”
Sandra Deseron, a West Shore newcomer with two sons on the team, Eric and Korian, likes the feel of the team already and its place in the community.
“It’s a brotherhood,” she says. “You’ve got an integrated, well-bonded team here.”
Part of creating a connection with fans and others on the West Shore and beyond is convincing business owners that partnering with the team to help cover costs is a good investment in community, Pastro says.
The club, a not-for-profit society, is still looking for sponsorships. Busing alone costs the team $17,000 per season, while field rentals are another $12,000.
For more information on supporting the team financially, visit http://www.westshorerebelsfootball.com and click on sponsorship/donations, or email Pastro at President@westshorerebels.ca.