The shortlist of nine coaches for NFL Canada's 2012 NFL Youth Coach of the Year award was released Monday, and while all the coaches on it are worthy of recognition, one name will stand out to even those who don't closely follow high school or community football: Farhan Lalji. Of course, Lalji is mostly known for his work on TSN, which includes serving as a sideline reporter for B.C. Lions' games, but those on the B.C. football scene know the impressive amount of time he's contributed to high school football here over the years. He currently serves as the head coach of the New Westminster Secondary Hyacks and as the president of the B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association. He's a deserving presence on this list of incredible coaches, all of whom have done a terrific job of improving the quality of grassroots and high school football across Canada.
Coaching at this level is not a high-profile gig, but it's an important one. According to Lalji's bio on the Hyacks' page, this will be his 23rd year of coaching high school football in B.C. and his eighth as a head coach. He was named the scholastic provincial coach of the year at the B.C. Lions' Orange Helmet Awards in 2010. Lalji has done a lot of great work developing young players over the years, and it's nice to see him recognized for that as well as his reporting. He'll be up against stiff competition, though. Some of the other names nominated here include Brian McCorquodale from Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary, who's spent 30 years in local football and inspired countless youth, including nominator Mark DeWit, a centre for the Stampeders; Trevor Allen-Monaghan from the James Bay Eagles in Abitibi Témiscamingue, Quebec, who's been a crucial force in the growth of six-a-side football programs for aboriginal youth in remote areas; and Dave Hocking, who coaches with three different teams in London, Ontario while also running a "Cleats For Kids" charity. Any of these nominees would be a worthy selection.
What exactly is this award? Well, it's in its 14th year, and it's a NFL Canada program that's run in conjunction with Football Canada. It's a great way to provide some recognition for high school and community coaches, as they play a crucial role in developing Canadian football talent but often fly under the radar. There were 687 submissions nominating 350 different coaches in nine provinces this year, which tells you a lot about how many people are making vital contributions to community and high school football across this country. Most importantly, the award carries tangible benefits for the programs involved; the winner will receive $5,000 in new equipment for their program, while the runners-up will get $2,000 in new equipment. That's a solid way to invest in the future of Canadian football, and that in itself is worth recognizing.