Lively high school football head coach Reg Bonin experiences it every time he walks into a coffee shop or local store in the community. And every time, he is left with a smile on his face and the goodwill of knowing he, the other coaches and the players with the Lively high school football team, are making a difference in the school, in the town and to the people who live there.
“I’m wearing my Hawks football jacket and people always come up and ask me about the team,” Bonin said. “When I started here five years ago, that wasn’t around. There’s a great sense of community support for Hawks football. It is nice to see.”
Yes, the boys who commit all their time in the fall to making the Hawks football team the best it can be want to win. But there is more to it than winning games at Lively. This is about building a program that helps mature and strengthen young men for the challenges of life and sport. It’s about maintaining a standard of values and principles that have come to define Hawks football — tough, honest, genuine and full of inspiration.
(Reg Bonin) has created the players' belief in themselves, their abilities and their love for the game.
Lively program leader of physical education and sport
It’s about being part of the community and giving back something all can enjoy and get motivated by.
“These are tough, hard-working kids who buy in and give everything they have, every practice and every game,” Bonin said. “Players have learned responsibility and commitment to the team and school, their teammates and the community.
“What is important is kids are getting a chance to play football and get the lessons I learned out of life through the game,” the coach continued.
It all started in 2007 when high school football returned to Lively after 20 years. The Hawks took it on the collective chin the first few years as they grew and earned respect. They barely could muster enough players to field a team. Questions were raised and doubt lingered as to whether or not the program could take hold and flourish in a small school with a student population of less than 400.
It took some time, but it did take hold. And it is flourishing. The team has a full roster of dedicated and charged up kids who want to represent the Hawks name at all costs. In 2011, the program claimed its first championship by winning the B Division city crown. This year, the Hawks are soaring higher as they sit in third place overall with a 3-1 record.
The current Hawks players know how far the program has come. They know they will always be battling for respect in Sudbury and that’s fine by them. They want to face the biggest odds and the toughest challenges. They’re out to prove they can be the best team.
Middle linebacker and Grade 12 student Adam Ferris, 16, started playing the game in elementary school and, as a true Lively boy, wasn’t going to any other high school than Lively when the time came. It has been a decision he hasn’t regretted. Ever.
“We are a small team, but we are a mighty and proud team,” Ferris said. “This team is a family. We play for one another and stand up for one another. It doesn’t matter the challenge. We will not let anything deter us from trying to win. We want to show everyone just who we are every game. This has been one of the best experiences in my life.”
It has been a community effort to get the Hawks soaring. The unbridled support of people such as Blair Holub, Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau, Fred Taylor, Mark Bartolucci and Dave Favot have helped to shape the program. For the Hawks, all the roads lead back to coach Bonin. It is never a long time before a current or former player or faculty member talks about Bonin’s impact on the program and themselves.
Bonin has been a constant source of inspiration.
“I see the capture of Reg Bonin into our ranks as the most influential reason for the program’s success,” said Lively program leader of physical education and sport, Matt Cootes.
“There is no denying he is one of the most influential, inspiring and motivational coaches I have had the pleasure of working with. He has created the players’ belief in themselves, their abilities and their love for the game.
“I think it was said best when an opposition player came to Reg after a game to tell him how much everyone on his team respects him for what he has done with this team and for the school.”