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Flag football gets local elementary school students back on the field

'For the kids to just wear the uniform is really exciting for them ... and we have a bunch of fans who come and watch which is boosting morale,' says Severn Shores teacher

Everyone was a winner during this week's flag football game between Coldwater Public School and Severn Shores Public School in Cumberland Beach.

For many students, it was the first time since early 2020 that they were able to don their schools’ colours and play in a meaningful sporting event against another school.

The visiting Cougars struck first when running back Cameron Callan-Balkwill broke free on a long rushing touchdown. The 13-year-old Grade 8 Coldwater student says making a big play in a real game was something he could only dream of doing during the pandemic.

“I haven’t done something like this in a while because of COVID. Last year, being online made me feel like I wasn’t wanted,” he said.

“I wasn’t able to be active last year unless it was after school hours; it sucked. I just wanted to be out here playing with my friends.”

Callan-Balkwill says being on the football field has had a positive impact on his physical and mental well-being.

“I like that it keeps me active, I like being able to get outside, and I like playing sports that I’m passionate about,” he said.

“I also like that my uncles play football and I’ve always looked up to them. So, I like being able to play football because it gives me a way to connect with them.”

The Cougars were able to take a slim lead into the second half, but they couldn’t keep the Storm down for long. Severn Shores quarterback Brynnen Gilbert led her team to a second-half comeback with a rushing and passing touchdown. The Storm were victorious by a score of 34-26.

“I feel like there was a lot of pressure on me to make the plays, but I like being the leader of the team and having the ball a lot,” she said.

The 13-year-old Grade 8 student says being back on the field this year has given her a whole new love for school.

“I’m a really sporty person. Not being able to play any sports at school last year was really boring. I’m really happy that in my last year of elementary I get to play sports again,” she said.

Severn Shores Grade 7/8 teacher, Braeden Price, says having sports back this fall has helped teachers connect with students on a different level.

“It’s something that they want to do, and they see that we are here for them as opposed to being there just to be a teacher. They think that teaching is just academics, but we are here to help them move along in all aspects of life,” he said.

Price says the return of sports has translated to better engagement and school spirit in the classroom.

“For the kids to just wear the uniform is really exciting for them, they are so excited, and we have a bunch of fans who come and watch which is boosting morale,” he said.

This year, Severn Shores decided to make no roster cuts, allowing all Grade 7/8 students who wanted to play to play.

“It’s really good because it lets you see the progression of the kids throughout the year. Also, not a lot of kids have played flag football before, they don’t have junior leagues around Orillia, so this gives them the opportunity to learn a new game where everyone is on a level playing field to start,” Price explained.

Currently, there are no other sports programs running for elementary school students outside of gym class. Price says baseball will be a go in the spring and he’s hopeful that the Simcoe County District School Board will give the OK for outdoor basketball at some point.  

Price says there are a lot of dedicated staff across the school board who are doing their best to get kids back to sports.

“I know that there are teachers who don’t know the game at all who have dedicated their time just so the kids can do something again. It’s definitely exciting to see that teachers are willing to put themselves out there to learn something new and allow the kids to play,” Price said. 

The Storm are now 3-0 on the season, while the Cougars have fallen to 0-1. The season will be wrapped up by next week.  

Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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