Student to protest at Bateman High over the shutdown of the football program.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON   September 9, 2012   We haven’t done very much on sports in Burlington – it comes down to the manpower we have available.  Saturday afternoon, while returning from an interview I noticed a lot of people in Palmer Park standing there holding umbrellas in a pretty consistent rain.  I pulled over and parked.

It was raining, the ground was wet, slippery and the football was hard to hang onto – but the game went on.

There were two games going on – and it was wet.  The players were slipping and sliding and there was a lot more falling on the ball than passing it – but it was high school level football.  I took some pictures, asked a bystander who was playing and what the name of the league was.

Parents buy the equipment, drive their kids to the practices and the games – and then have the joy of sitting in the rain to take it all in. The joys of being parents.

The Argos and the Alouettes of the Burlington Minor Football Association were on the field I was looking at.  Came home, downloaded the pictures and wondered how I could work them into a story.

Because community journalism is something that is always fresh and full of surprises – here is the balance of the story.

“My name is Christopher J. Bishop and I am a returning student at Robert Bateman High School (RBHS). Last year I was a part of the senior football team of our school. We did not win many games, but we had one thing, and it was heart. We were a family. Many of my brothers of the team stayed an extra year to play the sport we love, with the most returning students we’ve seen. Last year we played with a roster of around 18 members. Every year we have training camp in the summer before school and our season starts to get trained and a step up on other schools. This year was a bit different; we had new members added to our family, Coach Kevin Holmes and Coach Podlewski. With more than 20 years of coaching experience and time played in the CFL, the team had a new program ahead of them, and was ready to pave a path for the years to come of Bateman football.

“We regularly had 18 players out to practices just like the previous years, training harder and learning the game of football better than we ever had before. With dedication and commitment we were excited for our new season of ball, and being a part of the change. A week before today, our goal was to get 20 players out to have an even more successful year than the last.

“We still made it out to practice and spread the word around the school. Last night though around 5:00PM it changed. The director of physical education at our school, Tim Middlebro, told the coaches to tell the team that we were cancelling the team and folding the season.

“Students and players spoke to coaches, staff, and administration to see if there was any way of participating this season with our team, the Wild. Principal Regan Heffernan spoke to members of the team explaining that the issue was the lack of players coming out.

“Mr. Heffernan suggested that if 30 players were out to practice the decision would be reconsidered by the school. Taking the knowledge, players of the team rallied together using social networking to assemble an increased line-up of players for the team. Then today, with a shocking number of 32 players gathered, the team was told that Tim Middlebro went to a pre-season football conference the night before with the board explaining he wanted the team cancelled.

The students on the Bateman High School football team would love an opportunity to play in the rain. According to their side of the story they are not being given the chance they feel they deserve.

“The team arrived at our change room to find the door locked and nobody was there to open it. We had to search for a phys-ed teacher who reluctantly opened it. We shortly then after were forced out of the room by our ex-coach, Geoff St-Dennis. He had not yet been involved in the senior program this year, yet however today, he made his second appearance. They told us we couldn’t practice without a coach and that we’d have to leave, however, Coach Podlewski was waiting to see his 30+ players in the parking lot near the side of the field. Once the staff heard of this, they told us we couldn’t practice because “there was no longer a senior football program at Robert Bateman High School.” Within a moment our new found ‘family’ had been ripped apart.

“Many of the players took a stand, telling the coaches it was unfair, bringing up points on how we hadn’t even been given a time frame or knowledge that the team would be folded. The coaches, who decided to coach junior this year, informed us that we were folding the team because they were afraid that if our senior team folded, our junior team would receive a penalty or suspension from the league for the next year. They stripped senior students of their chance to play one last time so the program would have a chance in later years. Some of our players returned solely for football. I looked around the room seeing players in tears. Grown, high school, football jocks crying. We tried to fight hard. We did everything we could within our school to keep our program alive, but our coaches stabbed us in the back.

For a parent watching a BMFA game on a rainy Saturday afternoon – a fashion statement is still possible.

“Tomorrow, we will be protesting out front of our school. Signs, People, anything we can get our hands on to bring attention. We hope that you will be able to join us because all we want is for people to know that we want a football team. We are hoping for more than 100 players, students, parents, and community members coming together for the cause.”

We will try and be there – learn what’s going on.

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2 comments to Student to protest at Bateman High over the shutdown of the football program.

  • Luke Morton


    • rocky richardson

      you knom in todays world with the threat of drugs gangs and all the talk and expense goverment is spending on trying to get kids off the internet, phones, and video games to fight over weight unhealthy children this is a disgrace

      i truly am pxxxxd about this lack of commitment and by teachers and phy-ed staff they are on the frontlines of this. i realze that it is a voluteer programme but even a coach who was a former CFL player should understand the commitment and the returns that the athletic programme has n the long term even after school years have finished …..sorry for the rant but our kds are our future and when they have heart drive and commitment we should encourage it not delflect theese great qaultys in our youth

      Ed Note: The correspondent missed a couple of English classes – but manages to make a point.