The Sylvan Lake Bantam Lions football season ended in defeat in the team’s final game against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, but head coach Vic Sloboda said he’s got many reasons to be proud of his players.
One of which is winning the Central Alberta Football League’s Players’ Choice Sportsmanship Award.
“That award is a reflection of a team that were very proud of,” Sloboda said. “One of the things we grill into these kids is respect. Respect for your coaches, for your parents, for your teammates and for the other teams that we play. Winning that award was very rewarding.”
Winning the award was just one of many positives the Lions took away from their season. The positive attitude and strong determination players showed throughout the season made them a pleasure to work with, said Sloboda.
“We had so many players that played well,” he said. “They played well because they were passionate, coachable and they understood the game.”
The team’s Most Valuable Player, as awarded at the team’s year-end banquet last week, was Terrin Stein, an offensive lineman who played centre, and showed passion, leadership and excitement for the game.
“Everybody loved him,” said Sloboda. “He’s just a fun young man to be around and he had a very successful season doing what he was doing.”
A particularly low point in the season arrived when the team was forced to forfeit the last three-and-a-half minutes of a game against Lindsay Thurber due to a lack of players caused by injuries. At that time, the safety of remaining players became a concern, Sloboda explained.
“We didn’t want to throw anyone into a position where they would get injured,” he said.
The team recruited about 10 new players shortly after that, allowing the players to continue to do what they love most — play football.
“One of the things we say is that there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for football in Canada: When you see our kids playing, they are playing for the love of the game,” said Sloboda. “In our mind, football is not a money-making venture.”