Touchdown Club creates equity in sport: delegation

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

At the April meeting of the Rainy River District School Board’s (RRDSB) Board of Trustees a delegation from the Fort Frances High School Muskies Touchdown Club made a presentation to the board to express the importance of Muskie Football and the organization which supports it.

Marlis Bruyere presented on behalf of the Touchdown Club with the assistance of Club members Rachelle Yeo and Rebecca Webb.

The presentation was made to express the Club’s preference that it remain a fundraising arm of the football team. An ad hoc committee is currently exploring the creation of a Student Success Foundation, which, if created, could play a role in financially supporting a wide range of activities for the Board, including nutrition programs, extracurriculars, equity matters and possibly some sports related expenses. The perameters of the proposed Foundation, and how it may relate to existing booster clubs has yet to be finalized.

Football is one of the largest teams in the school, with roughly 45 members, Bruyere noted. The Club works to promote equity on the field, by removing barriers such as equipment costs, through Club fundraising. Without those funds, players would be required to pay those costs; helmets alone can cost upwards of $500 in addition to pads and other equipment. The team has a very short season which runs from September until late November if they make it to the championship game, making free equipment that much more important to the future of the team.

“Anybody can walk on the field and try out,” Bruyere said. “Because, as a booster club, we’ve been able to buy the equipment and helmets and even sometimes coaches have provided cleats. Those (players) can walk out there and play and be a part of a team and not have to pay $1,500 for equipment for themselves.”

Bruyere also praised the parents of the players who are committed to helping the team succeed.

“When I look around and I see people who come to pick up their boys at the end of practice and see there’s a need and suddenly say ‘where can you use me?’ That’s what’s unique about our club. Probably a lot of the clubs have that value base but we have outstanding parents.”

Bruyere has concerns that if the role of the Touchdown Club change, some of that enthusiasm may wane.

“It’s the extra things, though, from fundraising,” she said. “It’s things like making sure your son has extra sandwiches, and cookies and fruit, because a fair number of the boys don’t get on the bus to Winnipeg with lunch, or handing the coach $50 because they’re ordering subs after the game and not all the boys have money. Those are the kinds of things a foundation won’t do for us.”

For Bruyere, Muskies football is more than just a sport. She feels it helps the players develop on many levels.

“I saw my grandson…when he joined football, he learned self regulation,” Bruyere said. “He learned accountability to himself, to his coaches and to his team, and they made him the captain last year. And he pulled himself up to that level.”

Webb also spoke about the value of football in the community, remarking how she saw the community support the club’s sale of discount cards last fall.

“I witnessed, walking the streets of Fort Frances selling the Touchdown Club cards, a whole community that just literally stands behind football…” Webb said. “There really is a community that wants to rally behind this, because they’ve been personally affected either as a player, as a parent or as a grandparent, knowing how this does influence these kids so positively.”

Yeo, who is also on staff at Fort Frances High School, said she sees how being on the football team has affected the players on a professional level as well as a personal one, as her son played football last year. She spoke about how not having sports over the course of the COVID pandemic was difficult for many athletes, including her own son.

“He’s a very natural athlete and hockey was taken away, and basketball, and he actually just took his first exam this year in grade 11. So this year football brought my son from a really dark mental place into something happy and accepting,” she said. “These coaches were like brothers, these teammates accepted him and it made my household much better. A teenager that sat in the dark for two years was up and ready to practice for two and a half hours every night, while giving everybody a high five.”