Ontario High School Football: Are students the pawns? (VIDEO)

*****UPDATED AUGUST 12th/2015 @ 3:30PM EST******

It’s been a frustrating summer for Gordie Clark.

The 5’10, 255 pound nose tackle/left guard is just one of many gridiron players who face an uncertain fall. With the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation and Provincial Government of Ontario unable to reach an agreement prior to the start of the school season, the union withdrew extracurricular activities (including football) as of July 20th.

While talks are set to resume soon (August 17th-19th), the impact this impasse has had on gridiron players has been far reaching as it will affect their recruitment chances.

Gordie Clark

The fall high school football season in Ontario is prime period for many CIS schools to observe, evaluate and engage with prospects. With all the uncertainty surrounding the fall season, many student-athletes are uncertain of how their recruitment process will play out in the coming weeks.

In Clark’s case, he gauged interest from multiple teams – some of which were going to make the time to come and meet him in person in the coming weeks as he planned to rejoin MM Robinson Rams of the Halton Secondary School Athletic Association (HSSAA).

“I have been contacted McGill University about them coming to M.M. Robinson this coming fall and watching me play,” recalled Clark.  “They were very eager to get to know me and I was anticipating a great future in football ahead in Quebec along with considering a few other universities with offers and talks regarding myself.”

With the emerging possibility that high school football may not come to fruition this fall, Clark has decided not to sit back.  He took his frustrations to social media as he produced a video that has gone viral in the past days to express his feelings.

Overall, he is representative of many prospects who feel helpless with the situation at hand.

“What gives them the right to take our “best interest in hand” and “handle” OUR futures,” explained Clark.  “The possibility of no high school sports especially football in my case is very very, unfortunate.”

“Without a season this fall, all of that is in very serious jeopardy! And it is very frustrating to me and the tens of thousands of student athletes who have watched my video and messaged me afterward in full support of what I’m saying. Not one of us can truly accept just sitting here with our tails between our legs and let the powers that be “toy” with OUR futures.”

As for the video itself, Clark was contemplating putting together something powerful which would clearly get the message across for quite some time.

“I had been contemplating speaking out in some way against this strike/work action for a long time, pretty much the beginning of the summer,” reflected the Ontario gridiron prospect.  “I thought of a few different ways my voice could be heard but nothing really stuck with me, but being heavily involved with the drama program at M.M. Robinson, I thought why not make a video, completely unscripted, and sit down and speak my mind, (which I later found out was the opinion of a crazy amount of other people).

“So that is what I did. It was originally more of a venting exercise, but my opinion quickly changed on that when seemingly overnight I became the face to the fight against the strike.”

For his part, Clark is very comfortable leading the charge to give student-athletes a voice that up until this point has not been heard loud enough by the Teacher’s Union and Ontario provincial government.

“I accept the role as leader of this fight,” stated Clark.  “Students can hold me accountable by knowing we will not go down without a fight #letusplay #endthestike!”

Herman Griffins 2014 OFSAA Champs 1

Ultimately, the objective of Clark’s video is very precise and clear.

“My goal is simple – get back to normal everyday sometimes boring, old school, school,” expressed the Ontario student-athlete.  “Teachers teach, some coach, some run clubs, some help students after class is over.”

“Because that is how a school is healthiest when teachers are trying their best to teach and have fun and when the students are trying their best to learn from them and have some fun along the way.”

Aside from the video, Clark wants to convey a message to the several teachers that could potentially take on new hats as strikers.

“Please, this isn’t a hate video towards you don’t take it as that, I’m not for either side,” commented Clark.  “As I say in the video, I am for students!”

“All I want is normal school to be back in session! No more labour talks every two to three years.  Get a deal done; make it lengthy, and DO IT BEFORE SCHOOL IS SUPPOSE TO START!”

Nelson Lords 2014 1

Jeff Brock is in a unique position. Not only is he Head Coach of the Nelson Lords of the Halton Secondary School Athletic Association (HSSAA), but he also a physical education teacher at the school.

While he may be part of the Teachers’ Union, he comprehends the gravity of the situation affecting many prospects and coaches in Ontario. Overall, he remains optimistic this will unfold favourably for all parties.

“As teachers, we all understand the issues on the table here facing our Union and the impact they will have on Education in Ontario,” commented Brock.  “It really is a difficult situation for everyone to be in and to not be able to do what you love.”

“I am hopeful that both sides can find a resolution quickly and that we can get back on the field on time.  Sports and extracurricular activities are a vital part of any school (especially for us at Nelson) and we want to start the new school year off the right way.”

Jeff Brock

As for the recruitment front, Brock sympathizes with the student-athletes, especially Class 2016 gridiron prospects who are in limbo due to the uncertainty surrounding the high school football situation in Ontario this fall.

“I think the prospect of not having a football season this fall would be devastating to everyone,” added the Lords Head Coach.  “Graduating players are relying on this season to solidify or improve their recruiting status for post-secondary football.”

“For many their future in football and post-secondary education choices are riding on the next few months and the recruiting process. For a lot of others, this may be the last time they will ever have the chance to play football and create those memories with their peers and coaches.”

St Joan of Arc Knights 2013 OFSAA Champions

Chris Forde is the Offensive Coordinator for St. Joan of Arc Knights of the Georgian Bay Secondary School Association (GBSSA). After viewing Clark’s video, Forde felt that students need to comprehend the impact this potential strike will have on teachers who may be forced to be on the picket line instead of doing a profession they are passionate about.

“This young man needs to understand that this impasse affects not just the kids, but us teachers as well,” expressed Forde.  “For many teachers, the practice after school is the best part of the day.”

“Unfortunately our careers and livelihoods are being threatened and our legal position of job action might be needed. We hope it doesn’t come to that point, but ultimately we must do what is best for our families and our careers. While I feel for all the students who will be affected, some tough decisions have to be made. Some of these decisions affect the students learning environment in ways they might not understand at this time. My working conditions, are their learning conditions.”

Moreover, Forde says its important for student-athletes to recognize the time, dedication and sacfrices many coaches make throughout the season.  Ultimately, the coaches are passionate in their quest to help players reach their full potential and jelp them on their road to chasing their gridiron dreams.

“While I appreciate how this makes this young man feel, nowhere in his video does he take the time to say thank you to his teachers who have volunteered countless hours away from their families to provide him the ability to play over his past few years,” added the Knights’ Offensive Coordinator after viewing Clarke’s video.  “Students need to realize we do this because we love to coach, not because it is part of our job, coaching is volunteering.”

Jeremy Hodgins commitment


Several CIS teams, especially in the OUA, have had to prepare for the prospect of a potential loss of a high school football season in Ontario.

Last month in an interview with CFC, Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks Head Coach Michael Faulds said the team had to intensify their recruitment drive this summer during both the Ontario Varsity Football League (OVFL) and Ontario Football Conference (OFC) seasons.

“This year, we feel that it’s much more vital in the summer because there is a lot of uncertainty whether there will be high school football this fall so we’re putting even more of an emphasis on making sure we identify all the people we meet because we might not have that opportunity in September/October,” said Faulds at the time.

Steve Sumarah

For Carleton Ravens Head Coach Steve Sumarah, the lack of a season will hurt a certain group of prospects in particular.

“With the threat of Ontario not having high school football, I believe it has more of an adverse effect on the students who have not been playing summer football or have been to tryouts for Team Ontario,” offered Sumarah.  “Those players that have most of the coaches know who they are and will continue to recruit them.”

“Those who did not play in any other football but their high schools may find it harder to be recognized and recruited as they are not being seen in the fall.  It is too bad that there may not be football especially for those players in grade 12 and maybe missing out on playing the game.”

Phil Iloki 1


Ultimately, Clark hopes recruiters will not hinge their decisions of which prospects they pursue based on a lack of a high school season.  Moreover, he hopes they will use other avenues to compensate for this potential gap.

“A message to recruiters, please don’t throw your thoughts of athletes away if they do not have a season,” expressed the Rams standout.  “Hold camps!”

“Students would be chomping at the bit to come perform especially if they didn’t have a season! Or come and talk to them, get to know the student behind the facemask, or hockey pads, or basketball net.”

(twitter: http://twitter.com/vohra_ameeta)


Advocating for football prospects one story at a time.


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