Anthony Parker has been working hard to start Lethbridge’s own team to play in the Canadian Junior Football League.
It would be a first for southern Alberta.
“There’s so much talent in southern Alberta,” he said. “And right now there’s no home for them to go to. So a lot of kids after high school are quitting either because there’s no where to play, they can’t move away, it’s too expensive or they’re scared to.
“So I think this is a really good opportunity for southern Alberta football.”
The closest option for players looking to continue playing after high school is Calgary.
But on Saturday, Calgary came to Lethbridge.
The Lethbridge Vipers co-sponsored the University of Calgary’s Skills Camp with the South Knights to help build connections with players in southern Alberta.
“I’m trying to remember back,” said University of Calgary Dinos head coach Wayne Harris. “It might be the 80s or 90s the last time that we had something like this.
“So it’s great to be able to do something like this again.”
More than 50 teens showed up at the University of Lethbridge Stadium to show off their skills and learn some new ones.
Players were put in groups and worked through different skills stations on the field. University of Calgary football coaches, alumus and former CFL players were there to teach.
“It’s always great to find some good talent in southern Alberta,” said Harris. “They’ve got a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of drive, they’re working hard and hopefully learning a few things to help them out in their futures.”
Luka Kauro has been playing for four years. He was excited to take in everything the day had to offer.
“I just love seeing all the kids out here working,” he said. “All the wide receiver stuff and coaches pushing us and having fun. That’s the best thing ever.”
“Biggest thing I learned is just work hard and have fun. Always have fun no matter what.”
Bailey Tanaka, Acacia Weiss and Isabella Amanatea also took part in the skills camp. They were the only three girls there to play.
Amanatea and Weiss said they picked up the sport from their siblings and cousins. Tanaka used to be a dancer. She said she was looking for a change of pace and stumbled on football.
But being a girl on the field isn’t always easy, she said.
“It’s a little bit odd,” said Weiss, who has been playing football for two years. “You have all these boys around you. It feels like you’re singled out, but they also include you in things.”
“You have to better and you have to try harder if you’re on the line like I am,” said Tanaka, who has been playing for three years. “Because I’m going up against guys that are the same weight as me or heavier than me.”
Parker said seeing not one, but three girls on the field almost brought a tear to his eye.
“It was amazing to see. We want to see more women in sport, and more women in football especially,” he said. “And to see those young girls here, it was great.”
The Lethbridge Vipers hope to be up, running and scoring some touchdowns in 2022. In the meantime, Parker said they’re looking for letters of support from businesses.
“We want to create a home to develop more football,” he said.
“Give them a home to play more football and also further their education as well with the college and university.”
The Vipers recently got the support of two-time Grey Cup champion and four-time CFL sack leader Charleston Hughes. As the Vipers’ newest board member, Hughes will bring a vast amount of experience in the sport and a passion for developing players from all levels of football.