Former Leo Hayes High School and University of Ottawa quarterback Josh Sacobie, left, was one of the instructors at a Football Canada instructional camp which concluded Friday and involved some 94 young athletes working with some elite coaches to improve their football skills. Sacobie believes itís just as important they learn life skills and values as well. Here he works closely with Stuart Buckley, a student at the camp.
Lessons on and off the field at grid camp
Sacobie | Former Leo Hayes High star imparts life lessons

By Robert Touchie

To Josh Sacobie, success is in life is not measured in dollars and cents or wins and losses but by what a person gives back to the sport of football and to the community in general.

Sacobie, a resident of Ottawa but a Fredericton football product, has been in the city this week working for Football Canada as Program Development Co-ordinator. He was an instructor at a football camp put on by Capital Area Minor Football Association (CAMFA) which wrapped up Friday at Chapman Field.

"I'm elated to be back in Fredericton working with minor football and to being giving back to the community that enriched my life so much," said Sacobie, who inished his five year university football career as a quarterback with the Ottawa Gee Gees, that included a 2007 Hec Creighton nomination as the nation's top player two years ago.

"With Football Canada I travel the country putting on camps serving Canadian minor football, holding a balance between touch, flag and full-contact areas of the sport." he said.

Sacobie attributes two main factors for the desire to give back to the community.

"When I was working in northern Quebec for two summers as a child care worker it made me realize what a difference doing for others can make," said Sacobie, who holds a degree in sociology and criminology from his alma mater.

"It made me realize that working with aboriginal youth, and really youth in general, was something I wanted to make my life's work."

The other catalyst came from a valuable friend and mentor, before he ever left his hometown of Fredericton.

"Allison Brooks introduced me and about ten of my friends to the sport of football and it changed our lives," said Sacobie, a Maliseet, who was raised on St.Mary's First Nation and graduated from Leo Hayes High School.

"He taught me the sport, the position of quarterback, and life lessons about respect, hard work and discipline," said Sacobie. "His example and guidance helped me get through school and provide a solid foundation for my life."

Sacobie is determined to do the same for others and sees potential in many of the 94 kids, ranging from ages 10-17, at the Fredericton camp this week. One kid, in particular, caught his eye.

"There are so many talented young players here this week, but one did stand out to me," said the 26 year-old Sacobie who recently became engaged to longtime girlfriend Natasa, a lawyer in Ottawa. "Brady Paul has just tremendous potential and at just 16 he is really quite a physical specimen, as well."

Paul, like Sacobie, has been raised on St.Mary's First Nation.

"I like a lot of sports but I really like football the best," said Paul, heading into grade 11 at Leo Hayes High School and already standing an imposing 6-1 and 210 pounds. "It keeps me active, lets me meet new friends and I hope someday I can go play University football like Josh did. That's my goal."

The camp was put together by Dave Blanchard of CAMFA who believes that success this year is just the beginning of bigger and better things.

"We had to turn away 30 kids and we are actually well over our self-imposed limit of 80 players," said Blanchard. "We really need more instructors if we are to grow next year and that will be the challenge, among other things, like potential lodging of kids and some other considerations."

Although Blanchard was light on numbers, his staff was a veritable who's who in football in the Atlantic region, counting coaching representatives from Mount Allison, Acadia and Saint Francis Xavier Universities. Local minor football coaches, high school coaches and current AUS players rounded out the instructor listing.

Mount Allison head coach Kelly Jeffrey, for one, was impressed with the camp and the talent of the players.

"This was a very well run camp and I was impressed with the talent level of all of the kids, especially those at the grade nine and ten levels," said Jeffrey. "Blake Murphy was one kid that I just jumped out at me&he truly is a fantastic talent and I actually confused him for being in the later high school age group - he was that big and that good."

Murphy, 14 years old, actually heads into grade nine at FHS this year and feels that the camp will make him a better player.

"I love the contact," said Murphy, a solid 5-8 and 164 pounds.

"I got started playing six years ago and hopefully someday I can do what Jake Thomas did and play for Team Canada." Thomas was on hand, volunteering as an instructor and thinks that if more people got out helping, they'd realize what he did - that there is no better feeling than giving back.

"Kids like Blake, Brody and Zane Brennan are the reason I like to do this," said Thomas, just 18 himself and set to head back for a second year with the Acadia Axemen after an all-star nod and a silver medal performance for Team Canada at the World Junior Football Championships in Canton, Ohio.

"All these kids are great, but little Zane has been like a sponge; he's the youngest one out here but he's probably the best student of what we are teaching. You tell him to do something and he's off working to perfect it, it's great to see."

Zane Brennan is just nine years old and his spirit is an example of what the volunteers want from the youngsters who attended the camp.

"Our goal is to have kids here that want to learn and get better as football players," said Sacobie.

"That certainly is important, but hopefully they also leave with the knowledge that life and football's success is not measured by wins or losses, but in being a good person, treating others with respect and giving back to your community."