Ponoka Bantam Broncs football head coach Todd Lewis has earned some well-deserved recognition for his dedication to his team and the community as a recipient of a 2020 Award of Merit from Football Alberta.
“I feel honoured to receive the merit award,” said Lewis.
“The other coaches, volunteers, and I were so grateful to be able to organize camps, practices, and games for the kids. Knowing that our players had opportunities to compete, improve, and enjoy football was reward enough. The award is definitely a cherry on top and I’m thrilled to receive it.”
Because of COVID-19 and the changes and challenges it posed for the 2020 football season in Alberta, the organization had to think creatively when it came to their annual coaches and officials awards.
Awards are usually based on excellence on the field, including regular season records and playoffs and provincial success.
“What we did instead was switch gears and focus on those who went above and beyond to allow for those meaningful experiences to occur in the face of sometimes overwhelming paperwork and attention to detail regarding the restrictions due to COVID-19,” stated Football Alberta in a press release.
“Thus we created for one year our “Award of Merit.”’
The board of directors voted on the nominations at their AGM on Jan. 31, 2021, and selected 16 individuals and three co-winner groups as the “best and brightest in our darkest year.”
The awards covered the gamut from tackle to non-contact, from administrators to coaches to athletic therapists, and from all levels of play including university, junior, high school, female tackle, bantam and atom.
“These were the people who worked their tails off to ‘keep the lights on.’”
Lewis was nominated by Quaid and Naomi McKinney. Lewis coached Quaid for three years and Quaid helped coach the team this year, as seniors were unable to play.
“Coach Lewis puts hundreds of hours into Ponoka minor football,” said Quaid.
“This year required that things get done differently and he adapted quickly to make a football experience possible. Coach was vigorous in finding a way for the Bantam Broncs to have a season last year.”
Lewis was recognized for his work in organizing a virtual training camp last spring and later facilitating an informal fall season.
The spring camp was free for athletes sign up and participate in the challenges and was offered to new players, current Bantam Bronc players and high school players.
The camp included group workouts, guest speakers including guest coaches and Usports athletes, and community citizenship challenges.
“This helped to keep kids in shape and connected to the team.”
Once restrictions lifted in the summer, Lewis organized an in-person camp that included a jamboree-style game with Lacombe.
Lewis helped orchestrate a developmental league in the fall, enabling junior high players to have a chance to play football when many other sports could not be played. High school players such as Quaid were also able to help out with coaching and stay connected to football.
He arranged games with other communities that respected the guidelines and allowed the teams some competitive playing time of the field.
The finale of the season was a day at the Dome in Red Deer. Players from Rocky Mountain House and Ponoka had the opportunity to get some position-specific coaching.
“I think Coach Todd’s efforts had a huge impact on the physical and mental health of players as they managed these unprecedented times,” said Quaid.
Lewis says the goal of the Bantam Broncs program is to use football as a tool to develop young people into adults.
“The values, lessons, and adversity kids take away from football can have a direct impact on who they become as people,” he said.
“So, I hope that Broncs learned how to play and enjoy football, how to compete and push themselves through adversity, how to sacrifice and be a team player, and how to carry themselves with Bronc Pride.”
Looking forward into 2021 and beyond to the development of the sport in Ponoka, Lewis hopes the team will continue to build on its on-field performance and keep growing stronger each season and says he’d love to see a peewee and atom team formed down the road.
Lewis says the foundation is already there, with the “massive”amount of support the team receives from the community.
“With younger teams feeding into the bantam team, which in turn would feed into the senior program, I have no doubt Ponoka would become a football powerhouse.”
Lewis will be receiving a commemorative plaque from Football Alberta sometime in the spring.