The football coaches of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School had a vision in 2008.
In the absence of a football league in the City Above Toronto, they created one: the Vaughan Football Association.
With the patience of a saint, the fledgling association received permits almost three years after its inception. And last year ikt got together over 60 kids from ages 8–14 to play in an impromptu league after finally receiving field permits.
Only two teams were formed, but it allowed Vaughan kids to get a taste for the gridiron before they reach high school.
“Through coaching at the school and understanding the community and knowing the kids that are into the sport, we saw from day one it was a shame that these kids were not exposed to the sport earlier,” recalls president Fabio Brusco.
That’s why in 2008, along with fellow teacher Robert Fiore, he set out to bring football to Vaughan so kids would not have to travel to Markham, Brampton or Newmarket.
“They’re not that far away, these cities, but at the same time it makes it a little bit harder,” Brusco said. “You have to get driven by your parents during rush-hour traffic twice a week, and it detours a lot of kids.
“They were having a lot of trouble playing football outside of school and they’d never played football before they came to high school.”
The goal is to build up their house league to three divisions, with four teams in each.
“This way, when they get to high school they can basically excel there, but eventually we’d like to form rep teams,” Brusco said. “We just want to do as much as we possibly can — basically give the kids of this community what the other kids of other communities are currently receiving.”
An advertisement filtered through schools, and teacher Felecia Marinis came across it, knowing right away it was what her 11 year old son Luca had been looking for.
“As soon as my son saw that, well, out went the guitar lessons, out went everything else and into football he went, because he loved it,” she said.
“Loved it” is an understatement.
The Marinis’ dog is named Dallas, for “America’s Team”, naturally. Felecia organized a year-end tailgate party for the inaugural season.
But Luca admits it wasn’t love at first sight.
“I had never really liked the sport of football and I sat down and watched one episode; I’m pretty sure it was the Redskins and Cowboys,” he said. “My dad said, ‘See, it’s cool, so stop all that criticizing’.
“I started to watch it and I actually started to like it.”
Now, the dream of following in the footsteps of quarterback Tony Romo has became more of a reality for Luca.
Decorating his room in full Cowboys paraphernalia, the next step was to seek out a league to sharpen his skills.
He’s ready for next season, as is Brusco, who’s hoping a little help from the city will garner them field time.
“We have a lot of youth in our city,” Brusco said. “Field space is an issue, no doubt about it.
“But I think the city is working on that.”