Sylvan Lake Minor Football is celebrating 25 years this season after what started out as a small program has grown into a success.
In 1997, the organization was started by Jeremy Braitenback after he began a new teaching job at H.J. Cody High School. He found there was a lot of interest in Sylvan Lake for football and it took off ever since.
Braitenback said it’s awesome to see it still standing after all these years and see it continue to grow.
“It’s something I’m just proud really,” he said adding there were many others who were also responsible for the association flourishing. Rick Dunnigan co-founded Sylvan Lake Minor Football and two other important figures in the association were Garnet and Geoff Rambaut.
The association started out with just a high school team and expanded to a bantam team after four years. Two years later, they had a peewee program followed by an atom program a few years after that. These teams are now known today as the H.J. Cody High School Lakers, the bantam Lions, peewee Bears football, and Tigers atom football. They have kids as young as eight years old playing all the way until Grade 12 and the programs have won multiple championship titles.
They want to make football more available to those who want to come out and play. This year he said they have such a demand they didn’t have enough equipment or coaches so they’re looking for more volunteers and to raise more money for equipment.
“All of our teams won their leagues last year which was awesome and speaks to the program,” Braitenback added.
“Because of that more kids signed up especially at the atom and peewee levels like we’ve never seen before. I’m pretty sure with the athletes that we have and the amount we have coming out that the programs will be successful this year and into the future as well.”
Geoff Rambaut, head coach of the bantam Lions, said the organization making it 25 years is quite a step for Braitenback and Sylvan Lake Minor Football.
“There’s probably 50 people involved now and 200 kids per year so it’s a testament to the work he’s put in first and foremost,” Rambaut said.
Rambaut said they’ve seen both growth and a decrease in registration over the years but over the course of 25 years has been consistently expanding.
“There’s been times where we’ve been close to potentially having two teams in certain divisions which is nice. It means the program’s strong and we’re always recruiting new kids,” he added.
In their graduating class last season they’ve seen a couple go off to play in university and some stay in central Alberta to play locally. Rambaut said consistently every year they’ll have a few players go to play junior football as well as for the Central Alberta Buccaneers of the Alberta Football League.
Rambaut graduated from the football program in 2005 and has coached within Sylvan Lake Minor Football since 2006.
“I think it’s a player-first organization which is kind of nice. From tailoring programs, and game scripts or plays around kids to having the parents heavily involved it’s all geared around the kids and I think that’s what made it so consistent for 25 years,” he said.
“The community has really embraced the program too which helps.”