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 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.
“I was sitting back thinking one day that many communities in Nunavut are starting to get outdoor turf,” Schutz said. “So from late spring to early fall it (flag football) is something that could utilize those turfs and offer kids something different. That’s where it kind of all started. It’s been about an eight-month process.”
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.
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 Kelowna players.
Schutz is 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 monthly.
And with flag football being offered at summer camps this year, Schutz said introducing the sport early with the CFL was a natural.
“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.”
Schutz comes by his football passion honestly. He’s a coach in Kelowna and has a son playing the game. His father-in-law is none other than Bob Poley, the ex-Saskatchewan Roughriders (1978-84, 1988-92) and Calgary Stampeders (1985-88) offensive lineman.
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.
“Hopefully there’s a way to continue it.”
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.”