He’s helped make volleyball a sport of choice in Nunavut. Now, Scott Schutz is trying to make football a part of the territory’s athletic landscape.
Last weekend, the native of Yorkton, Sask., who now calls Kelowna, B.C. home, helped stage flag football camps and coaching clinics in Nunavut in conjunction with the CFL.
Schutz was among three coaches to do school visits last Thursday-Friday before staging separate flag football clinics (for a combined 60 under-14 and under-17 players) and a clinic for perspective coaches Saturday and Sunday.
“That’s where it kind of all started. It’s been about an eight-month process.”
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Schutz presented the idea to the CFL, which liked his proposal.
“From our standpoint we want as many kids as possible, no matter where they are, to enjoy playing football,” said Eric Noivo, the CFL’s manager of football operations.
“For us, it was a bit of a no-brainer to grow the game, help kids who don’t necessarily have all of the resources they deserve and work with someone who’s passionate about growing football.”
So the CFL provided 10 flag football kits consisting of 400 flag belts, 50 footballs and 200 cones. Schutz and two other coaches provided instruction, aided by a group of players from Kelowna.
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Schutz is very familiar with Nunavut.
He’s the executive director of Volleyball Nunavut and also works with the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut, establishing after-school programs and summer sport camps.
Schutz, who played and coached university volleyball as well as with the national team, makes the roughly 2,946-kilometre trek from Kelowna to Nunavut on a monthly basis.
And with flag football being offered at summer camps this year, Schutz said introducing the sport early with the CFL was a natural.
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“Flag is a great sport,” he said. “It’s five-on-five, anyone can play, it’s pretty easy to pick up and is just go, go, go, which is something I like about it.
“Flag football is something we wanted to promote and thought this could be a kickoff to the summer sports camps.”
Schutz comes by his football passion honestly. He’s a coach in Kelowna and has a son playing the game. And his father-in-law is none other than Bob Poley, the former Saskatchewan Roughriders (1978-84, 1988-92) and Calgary Stampeders (1985-88) offensive lineman.
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Rob Strutz, a middle school physical-education teacher in Iqaluit, said he was all-in when Schutz approached him about introducing football to his students during gym.
“Anything that can promote positive physical activity for the kids here I’m all for,” said Strutz, a 47-year-old native of Kamloops. “I think nationwide there’s a push to improve physical literacy and get people moving and active.
“Sport and recreation here are important just for the overall health of the kids. You learn so much through playing different sports. Teamwork, co-operation and respect, all things that will help kids down the road.
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Strutz said his many of his students took immediately to football.
“I was just outside for recess duty and had a group of kids come up and ask when they’re going to be doing football again,” he said. “The kids who participated in the camp itself really enjoyed it.”
After the instructional part of the weekend, players were divided up into teams and squared off. Schutz was impressed with what he saw.
“They have great athletes up there,” he said. “They picked up the game very quickly.”
And with six coaches receiving instruction, Schutz said the hope is they’ll pass on that knowledge to other prospective coaches in their communities.
“We want to have them take back what they learned and hopefully start flag football in those communities,” he said. “Also to train some of the coaches going into our summer sports camps.”
Also this year, the CFL plans to unveil its Try Football program. The league will provide a website where parents can type in their postal codes and learn which minor football organizations are closest to them.
As well, the CFL will provide its nine member teams with 1,000 footballs for donation to organizations they work with to further grow the game.
Schutz remains hopeful a group of players from Nunavut will come to Kelowna this fall to train with athletes there.
“This was very well received with both boys and girls, and obviously there’s a want for it from the youth,” he said. “We’d love to go back.
Noivo said the CFL has already started that ball rolling.
“We’ve had some initial discussions about how we can continue this,” he said. “It was great and there was a legacy component to it, but we don’t want it to be the end of our work there.
“We had such a great experience working with Scott and I don’t see why we wouldn’t try to grow and improve upon the great work we’ve already done.”