Buccaneers make use of downtime to give back to the community

The Central Alberta Buccaneers men’s football team has begun preparations for the 2015 Alberta

The Central Alberta Buccaneers men’s football team has begun preparations for the 2015 Alberta Football League (AFL) season — but not quite yet on the football field.

Instead, as has been the case in previous years, Buccaneers can be found throughout the community lending a helping hand wherever they can.

But supporting the community isn’t just a way of staying active until pre-season training begins; it’s part of being a Buccaneer.

“We definitely want to get the image out that we’re not just a football team,” said receiver Matt Merkley, one of several Sylvan Lake players on the Buccaneers’ roster. “We like to help communities out and bring them together as well.”

The Buccaneers’ most recent community effort saw its players partaking in a team blood drive in Red Deer last month. After making a total of 17 donations of blood, the team sent out a challenge to all of the AFL’s other teams to do the same, which they’ll complete in their respective blood donor clinics on Feb. 7.

The Buccaneers will then participate in a bowling tournament in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ponoka later that month. For that particular initiative, the team has set a fundraising goal of $1,200.

Giving back, according to Merkley, is the players’ way of supporting the community that supports them.

“It’s just kind of to give thanks to those who make our football team even possible,” he said. “The second part is just trying to get our names out there for people to come and support us even more.”

Volunteering will keep the Buccaneers busy until they get together in March to begin discussing plays and on-field preparations.

Under the direction of new head coach Devon Hand, things will be different for the team this year. But, according to Merkley, players are optimistic about the season that lies ahead.

“He (Hand) is doing some exciting things,” said Merkley. “He’s changing up how we practice and just what the practice even looks like, and he’s really looking for committed guys. He wants people to come and get better.”

The Buccaneers kick off their season on June 6 in Calgary against the Calgary Wolfpack. While Buccaneers players hail from all over the Central Alberta region, the team’s home games are played in Lacombe.