A St. Albert peewee football team is taking home the provincial championship, in large thanks to their coach who is facing battles of his own this season.
Scott Wallace, the defence coordinator for the St. Albert 49ers was a major motivator for the team through the season, all while he was dealing with a second cancer diagnosis.
Wallace has been coaching in St. Albert for four years, three while he worked with a team his son plays for — this year included.
The 49ers were undefeated in their championship, and Wallace says it’s the result of the team’s hard work and dedication.
“To accomplish that and to have an undefeated season is pretty amazing,” he said. “It takes a lot of dedication to go through the grind of a season like this. Everyone wants to be the one to beat you when you’re going into games undefeated.”
His son’s season started out a little slow, as he dealt with his dad’s cancer recurrence, but he came through “and made a huge difference in our playoff run,” Wallace said of his son.
Last November, Wallace was diagnosed with throat cancer, which was treated with surgery and radiation. By the spring, he was declared cancer free. But a scan in June showed that the cancer had come back — this time it was stage four, terminal.
“I have four tumours in my liver, one in my femur and two in my spine.” But he still showed up to every practice, to every game, all while undergoing more treatment. He also worked with personal training clients.
“I just keep fighting and living. You don’t give up, you just live. And I’m living with passion.”
He said coaching has really helped him cope with his health.
“Cancer doesn’t define me. Cancer is just something that’s happened to me. What defines me is being a coach, practice, football, working out, training others, helping others to achieve their goals. So, the ability to come to practice and watch these kids develop and help make them better and see them achieve their goals is just amazing to me. Amazing.”
Seeing him show up, knowing what he’s going through, inspires the kids to work harder.
“They would look at me and they would do anything for me. And I would do anything for them,” Wallace said through tears of the close-knit group of defensive players he coaches.
“It was amazing,” said player Elijah Espinoza of the season and getting to work with Wallace. “I felt like I could do anything.”
Fellow teammate, Cole Deiner, also expressed his gratitude for his coach.
“If we hadn’t done this with Coach Scott, and as an entire team, we wouldn’t have had as good a season as we had.”
Wallace said it was really special to get to see his son win a championship, and with a team he coached, no less.
“I’m all about hard work, I’m all bout effort…If you put in the time you will get rewarded. It takes the same stuff, whether you’re a pro, amateur or pee wee football coach, you have to do the same amount of work to get the rewards, and these kids did it.”
“The fact that I have cancer is just another motivator for me, and the kids fed off that,” he added.
He hopes that in years to come, when they’re going through hardship, the kids can look back and use this time as inspiration.
“If it’s my last year coaching football, what a way to end.”
— With files from Sarah Komadina, Global News