Way back in the fall of 1975 my parents determined we’d move to Edmonton from Calgary, the move coincided with my grade 12 year and after playing volleyball for two years in grade 10 and 11 I decided I’d try out for football for grade 12 in my new school. The school was Harry Ainlay and as luck would have it I made the team (most likely the last one on the roster) and was along for the ride as the Titans won their first Sr Football Championship. The roster for 1976 was stronger (I think) and I had the opportunity to play several positions on defence and a bit of scout offence.
I like to joke that my coach, Bryan Anderson, had to choose between Dave Getty, son of the Premier of Alberta at the time and former Edmonton Eskimo QB on the Grey Cup teams of the 50’s, Matt Dean son of the principal at Lazerte High School (at the time) and former Edmonton Eskimo Center on those same teams, Jackie Parker Jr. son of Jackie Parker the “living legend” of the CFL and running back of those same three-peat Eskimos and Rick Gilson, son of Bob, recently moved in realtor. There was really no comparison in the football talents and experience, I enjoyed learning the game, playing now and then generally helping out where I could. Two for two on the city championship front, high school football was pretty good for a kid who showed up at the parties with a 2L bottle of Orange crush and went home with a fair share of quarters.
1975 City Champs
1976 City Champs
In late August 1981, I had returned from a two-year mission in Japan and was working at Prudham Building Supplies in charge of mixing cement in 1-meter trailer loads for home renovations. Bryan Anderson drove up for a load of cement and asked me what I was up to. I told him that I was starting a degree in education with an eye to being a Social Studies teacher. Without missing a beat as I recall it he said, you should come coach this fall. (He didn’t have to say where). I was floored, why would he want someone who hardly played, so I asked and his reply was equally quick along the lines of you played safety, half, corner, outside linebacker and a bit of scout team and special teams on an undefeated team. You can coach if you want to.
From 1981 through to today I’ve been blessed to coach 64 different football teams and next week I’ll start spring camp with my 65th team. Those first four teams at Ainlay culminating with an undefeated first city championship in the school’s history for a junior team – one that gave up one point all season – were great learning opportunities. I didn’t work directly with Bryan, Wayne Gallup and Bob Erichsen were the Head coaches of the junior team but Bryan was always available. As I went on coaching in Grande Prairie Bryan was more than available he’d show up at our provincial games, and even brought Ainlay up for exhibition games a couple of times.
My football life has been a rich blessing, my life in education likewise a blessing in so many ways. A handful of people, Dr. Bob Patterson, my parents, and Bryan Anderson most prominently included played significant roles impacting my career.
In each other’s lives, we simply can’t always tell how far our actions will ripple out and affect lives. I have no doubt Bryan never thought one invite would lead to whatever impact my own coaching career has had on players, fellow coaches and communities. For that matter that coaching impacted other opportunities for leadership that placed me in the position where I could positively, I think, impact the discussion around accommodations on diploma and PAT exams, the focus on mental health education, and so much more around sportsmanship, character and leadership education that has its foundation in 1975-76 and an invitation to coach football in the fall of 1981.
Yesterday the city of Edmonton dedicated an athletic field complex to Bryan Anderson. Tonight, June 10, 2019 Bryan Anderson will be inducted into the City of Edmonton Hall of Fame. I’ve long spoken about the importance of people having their own hall of fame, seeking out mentors and placing themselves in a position to mentor others. Bryan Anderson has been in my personal Hall of Fame for a very long time. I’m glad to see that the City of Edmonton has joined the party. Thank you, Bryan and all the best to you for years to come.