I don’t know much about the details of the Barsby incident. Rumours abound about whether or not those involved are even current players in the program. Regardless, it is deplorable no matter how one looks at it.

Here is what I do know. 

The Barsby Football program is one of the classiest sport programs in Nanaimo. For over 20 years the coaching staff have stressed that the program is about much more than just football. It emphasizes academics, integrity, citizenship and loyalty.

Senior players in that program mentor the juniors. And the program philosophy is embraced by all. Over the years there are many people who have cited the football program for its positive impact on the culture of the entire school.

The program has sparked a community based league for elementary school kids in the South End supported and led by the Barsby coaches and players. This program is also based on the same principles as the high school program. Emphasis on fair play and having fun is paramount.

Last month I attended a rugby tournament hosted by Barsby. The players representing Barsby were mostly football players. They impressed me with their athleticism on the field, but impressed me even more for what happened off the field. Without any prompting from their coach, the host players attended to every detail from collecting all the equipment, returning tables and chairs to the school and cleaning up any debris left behind by spectators. Maybe that happens in other schools, maybe not.

So before we condemn a veritable institution in our community for an isolated incident, let’s pause and reflect. What is the legacy of this program? If you don’t know, you might be surprised to find out that the football program at Barsby has opened the door for many young athletes who otherwise may never have been inclined and/or able to attend a post secondary institution. It has consistently taught young boys what it means to be a good young man. The confidence gained from the program has allowed many, who may have otherwise floundered, to go on and find success in life.

When I speak about quality programs in Nanaimo, the Barsby football program is typically the first or second example I cite. I will continue to recognize Barsby football this way because I know that this incident is not a reflection on what the program is about, nor a fair reaction to the generation of young men that have benefitted from many years of surrogate parenting that the coaches there have selflessly provided.