St. Albert has produced many national rugby champions, as a quick look at the jerseys on the wall at the St. Albert Rugby Club will tell you.
Almost all those champions have one man in common: Roger Scott, rugby coach and longtime administrator of Lorne Akins Junior High School.
Scott is the person who basically started organized rugby in St. Albert, says Graham Hogg, a former member of Canada’s national rugby team and currently an inspector with the Edmonton Police Service.
Hogg trained under Scott back in high school as a member of the Paul Kane Blues rugby team – the predecessor of the St. Albert Rugby Club.
Scott is one of those people whose influence you don’t recognize when you’re a kid, but appreciate as an adult, Hogg says.
“He’s a force of change.”
The sports teacher
Scott, 63, officially retired last month from Lorne Akins after 40 years of teaching.
“I don’t know where 27 years have gone,” Scott says, referring to his long term at Lorne Akins.
“You can’t get a better job than I have now.”
Born in Calgary but raised in Edmonton, Scott says he originally wanted to get into law, but switched to phys-ed after hearing a speech at Ross Sheppard High by Herb McLaughlin, then dean of athletics at the University of Alberta.
“Physical education has probably been the most important part of my life,” Scott says.
He’s not a sports fanatic, says wife Ann Scott – he’s much more likely to put on some classical music than the big game when he’s at home. Instead, he likes to use sports to teach people how to be better citizens.
“I always felt he should have gotten his doctorate in the sociology of sport.”
Scott says sports teach physical fitness, discipline and teamwork, and provide a way to build your own skills.
“That’s always interested me: bringing players along to explore their own potentials.”
Scott started as a teacher at Lorne Akins in 1974, having arrived at the job interview covered with dust after a night shift at Inland Cement.
“I think I got the job more out of pity than competency at that point,” he jokes.
Scott worked with fellow teacher Jim Ferguson to develop a course called Canadian Studies – an eclectic mix of science, math, history and fine arts aimed at giving kids an all-round experience, Ann says.
“The last thing they did in the spring was they built these canoes,” she recalls – ones they would later row down the Red Deer River. The group built 14 bright orange fibreglass canoes in total – boats Protestant district schools used for many years.
Scott took various gigs at W.D. Cuts, Paul Kane, Robert Rundle, Ronald Harvey and Wild Rose between 1974 and 1987 before coming back to Lorne Akins.
Back in the 1970s, Scott also helped establish St. Albert’s Physical Education Council, a group that continues to co-ordinate phys-ed courses in St. Albert to this day.
Bringing rugby home
Gareth Jones, the founding president of the St. Albert Rugby Club, cites Scott as a key figure in the club’s creation.
Scott says he originally wanted to start a football team at Paul Kane, but couldn’t afford the equipment. He asked his students if they wanted to try rugby instead, leading to the creation of the Paul Kane Blues in 1980, with himself, Jones and Rod Adams as coaches.
“So many elements of that game appeal to my sense of what sport should be,” Scott says – it was hard, yet fair, and emphasized respect and friendship on and off the field.
Jones says Scott was adamant that the students learn about cultures from around the world, and organized two rugby tours to Wales and England to give them that international exposure.
“I still get kids telling me about the trip we had going down into a coal mine in Wales.”
The seed of the St. Albert club sprouted after Scott took a team of local students to play rugby at the 1981 Alberta Summer Games in Lethbridge. It was the last game they could play before they graduated.
After the game, Jones says one of the young players said, “Well, is that it, coach? Can we play some more?”
That gave Scott, Jones, and a few others the idea for the St. Albert Rugby Club, which held its first game at Lorne Akins that fall.
Jones says Scott has since coached hundreds of rugby players, including Team Canada members Andy Tiedemann, Dave Bridgeman and Graham Hogg.
“The rugby program at Lorne Akins is, without doubt, the best program in any junior high school in Alberta,” Jones says.
Hogg says Scott’s rugby efforts helped him and many others grow as people and players.
“It was kind of a rite of passage for so many of us,” he says – one that showed them that they could reach their goals.
“It’s created so many opportunities for so many people.”
Having taught some 5,000 students during his career, Scott says he’s looking forward to some time off. Still, he says he plans to help out local school teams and the rugby club when he can.
“I won’t be a stranger to the game.”