For three decades, Mustangs football has been a staple of support for the development of children in Pincher Creek. However, new roster rules are jeopardizing the program’s operations.
In January, the Mustangs received an email from Football Alberta stating that Football Canada had made changes to its roster rules that took effect Jan. 1.
In accordance with the new roster rules, teams looking to play nine-a-side football, with less than 17 registered players before the season starts, will be ineligible for league play in the 2023-24 season.
Football Canada has informed provincial football associations of the changes and these associations will enforce the new rules accordingly.
“I’m just so worried that we’re going to lose football,” says Faith Zachar, president of the Pincher Creek and District Mustangs Football Society.
“For 29 years, we’ve had a lot of children go through the program and we have seen them grow and support each other, while learning the game.”
“We have second-generation players now,” she says. “Their fathers played way back when we first started, and now their children are playing, so I think that shows that it’s been a real benefit to the town.”
The program has struggled to recruit local youths to register for football since the Covid-19 pandemic, but has managed to get by. Now, without community involvement, Mustangs operations will be heavily impeded.
Currently, the Mustangs boast senior, bantam and peewee football teams. However, none of them have enough registered players to be eligible for league play. Five seniors, nine bantams and five peewees are currently registered.
If the Mustangs fail to register enough players for at least one of the teams by Aug. 26, it will be the first time in the program’s history it has failed to field a team, with the exception of the pandemic period.
“We’ve had a few years where maybe we lost one of the teams because we didn’t have enough players, but we always had at least two teams in the league that we’re in, and I’d hate to see it all go down,” Faith says.
What the suspension of play could mean for the Mustangs remains unclear, but failing to have a team play in the regular season would do the program and its athletes no favours.
Cord Delinte, a Mustangs alumnus, can certainly speak to the positive impact the Mustangs can have on a youth’s upbringing.
Having played a successful five-year football career at the University of Regina, the skills and lessons Cord picked up with the Mustangs took him all the way to the 2019 CFL Western Regional combine.
“The Mustangs had a huge impact on me growing up,” he says. “It kept me out of a ton of trouble, and obviously brought me to a much higher level of football, and I owe all that to the Mustangs.”
He emphasizes that community involvement and support are necessary for the Mustangs to thrive, and that in return, the program can help support local youths in ways that go beyond football.
“I found that when I played, there were so many kids that were kind of oddballs or didn’t fit in or had trouble socially, and then they found this outlet where everybody came together as a team,” he says.
“The beautiful thing about football is there’s a spot for every kid, every body type has a position in football, and I think it’s beautiful when you can actually get all these different kids together.”
For parents with concerns about safety, Faith offers assurance that the program takes the safety of its athletes very seriously. She notes that coaches are trained in safe contact and proper tackling techniques, and that the program’s history of player injuries is sparse.
“We do everything we can to keep everybody safe,” she says.
The Mustangs hold practices every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., for all three teams, at Matthew Halton Field. Those interested in registering to join the Mustangs can do so at their next practice on Aug. 26.
It costs $275 to register your child for the season and KidSport support is available for those that are eligible for financial assistance. Kidsport Pincher Creek can be reached at 403-627-4322.
If you’re interested in registering your child for the Mustangs but can’t make it to practice this week, you can contact Faith Zachar at 403-627-7751 or email@example.com, or Shannon Schoening at 403-795-5710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.