Home > Spotlight on Volunteerism, The Bowest'ner > A score for community soccer!

A score for community soccer!

Rob and Linda Braun founded the Bowness Soccer Club nearly five years ago, and they continue to provide outstanding leadership to a thriving program

Back in 2005, Bowness Soccer was in trouble. The community association had dissolved the year previous, leaving local sports programs in limbo. Enter Rob and Linda Braun. With three young children active in the sport since 2002, they stepped in to steward Bowness soccer through a successful transition from city receivership to community institution.

Incorporated in February 2006, the Bowness Soccer Club now serves more than 200 local kids five days a week each spring from April through June. League games and practices are coached and managed by parent volunteers and played close to home, on the sunny (and, yeah, kinda chilly) fields of Our Lady of Assumption School. The club is founded on the single fundamental of fair play—that is, equal playing time for all skill levels. Competitive edge and skill development are also stressed in the three-times weekly technical sessions led by longtime Bowness soccer guru Darrol Graham.

Affordable, inclusive, local and laid back—just a handful of the reasons why the Bowness Soccer Club is the best ­example of our community at play together. We talked to President Linda and Treasurer Rob about their five years of volunteering as the face of Bowness Soccer.

BW: Getting started is always the hardest part. How was Year One?

Linda: Year One was good, actually. We’d been involved with the soccer program previously so we knew other committed parents who would follow through and help us. We had to figure out things like insurance, registrations and equipment ourselves at first. But the City was very good to us. They passed along any equipment from the old program that would be of use. A lot of support came from the greater northwest. I met a woman in Tuscany who was setting up a league at the same time. She told us about Calgary West Soccer Club, which is a larger club that encompasses house league, recreational and competitive soccer. I went to the CWSC meeting, and learned how to order uniforms, medals, organize a house league . . .

Rob: CWSC suggested we join their club, but we knew we had something special in Bowness and we wanted to keep a community-run club. So we decided to work in partnership with them instead, combining resources where appropriate but not fold up our own program. It meant a little more work to organize registrations and schedules within our own community, but Bowness is very strong in maintaining its identity and we wanted to make our program unique and local.

BW: So how is BSC unique?

Rob: There’s quite a few things we do differently—for example, our wrap-up party. Some communities do wrap-up parties for their U4 to U8 teams, but older teams aren’t included. Our wrap-up is a community event with all of our teams. There’s also the Bowness Stampede Parade where all of our players are welcome to ride in the parade—on bikes, or on our trailer. We also saw that CWSC provided technical skill sessions for the kids through their club. We applied their model locally by hiring Darrol to instruct technical sessions within Bowness.

BW: At sign-up you can pay $60 extra and opt out of your volunteer commit­ment. What if everyone paid in cash instead of effort?

Linda: Sometimes there’s an attitude that I’ve paid my money, now entertain me and my kid, instead of a more realistic understanding that the league is run by parents and other volunteers and that we absolutely need your involvement to create a good experience. Volunteers and supports are integral to the soccer program, and the parents’ commitments help reduce the cost of the program and provide good value. It takes a big crew to pull this together successfully; it’s not just the coaches and managers—our team photographer is a volunteer, the fields are lined by a volunteer, the paint to line the fields is donated by Home Depot, all of our sponsors—AUPE, Servus Credit Union, Plumb It Mechanical, Alberta Tubular, Bona Roma, Salt & Pepper—come from our pool of parents or the community in general. Their contributions make the club fees more than reasonable.

BW: It’s been said that “No good deed will go unpunished.” After five years at the head of a large volunteer community effort, what’s your take on this?

Linda: First and foremost, the rewards have been tremendous. Our kids have met some of their best friends through the club and we’ve made amazing connections as a family in our community.

Of course there are the occasional challenges, and we do our best to help parents and players understand what this club is about and to be open to improvement. Personally, my greatest area of growth has been learning to lead compassionately, rationally and firmly.

As our own children grow older and play further afield, I’m finding the personal interaction at younger age levels harder to maintain. It’s essential that volunteers in the right stages of family life step up where they can be most effective. I do want people to realize we’re not just faceless administrators; we’re the family who lives two doors down.

—Interview and photo by Scott Penny

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