Not just a coach, but a friend

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June 15, 2016 12:34 PM

Rod Kirby

Like many people, I expected to see Rod Kirby last Saturday at the peewee football jamboree.
He would probably be wandering the sidelines, talking to friends, coaches or players and watching the ship run smoothly.
Football events always seemed to run without any issues.
Everyone knew what to do, where to be and how to get the job done to ensure the kids had a fun day.
In this paper I expected to have two stories about the Colts and Steelers, talking about the peewee football teams and how they were shaping up after spring camp heading into next season.
I always held the peewees to the same level and standard as every other football team I cover, and this year will be no exception.
Sure, they are young kids, many of them first time players, but no one has ever had an issue with me calling it as I saw it on the field, because above all else, football is an honest game.
When I got the news of Rod’s passing the day before the jamboree, my thoughts were still on football, but more on how it would feel to go to the field for any game and not see Rod there. Even today, it just doesn’t seem right.
For the past week I’ve spent time with numerous people talking about Rod and what he meant to not just football, but this community.
And I found out quickly how many people felt the same way as I did, that it just wouldn’t feel the same at the field without him there.
But I’ve also spent the past week thinking about the people in this community who will be there at the field each and every week, ensuring the kids have a fun day playing a sport they love.
And for that matter, I thought of every coach and player who I speak with regularly and how important those relationships are to me, personally, not just professionally.
After three years of covering sports in Lloydminster, you go to games and events looking for the Rod Kirbys on the sidelines, the people who make my job a lot easier by always making themselves available for interviews, but also the people who make watching sports more enjoyable by just being at the game, willing to spend any amount of time they can talking about the game, the sport or just life.
People always say to me that my job is easy, I just watch sports all day, but the truth is, it can be a lonely profession standing on the sidelines and along the boards without anyone around to talk to.
But after so many years covering teams, it was people like Rod that made me want to get to the field early to watch even the youngest of football players, and people like Rod who would keep me there well after I had my story and photos completed.
When new journalists come to this city, the advice I give them is to build relationships, because it will make your job very easy to do. But I should start telling them, it will also make your job much more enjoyable to do.
Rod wasn’t just a football coach, a football president.
He was a friend.
A friend on the sideline who you could joke with and share with.
A friend you would show up to a game for, just because you knew he was there.
And like many in this community I share in the loss of a man I considered a friend.
But while it will feel different without Rod at the field, I also can’t wait for football season when it starts again in September.
Because there are many good friends there, so many strong relationships and people who will sacrifice their time to make sure football is strong in the Border City and, that above all else, the kids are having fun playing the game.
People, much like Rod, who I’m more than happy to consider friends.

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