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St. Albert food lady and coach score touchdowns

St. Albert’s Kirsten Olsen and Chad Hill were two of the 11 recipients of this year’s Football Alberta Coach, Official, and Volunteer of the Year Awards

A St. Albert “food lady” and a Sturgeon Composite coach have received provincial honours for work with high-school football.

St. Albert’s Kirsten Olsen and Chad Hill were two of the 11 recipients of this year’s Football Alberta Coach, Official, and Volunteer of the Year Awards announced last May 14. The awards recognize those whose efforts support amateur football in Alberta.

Football Alberta usually gives out these awards as part of its annual Senior Bowl Game and awards banquet on the May long weekend, said executive director Tim Enger. Since those events were cancelled due to the pandemic, this year’s recipients got their award plaques by mail.

Food lady

Olsen was one of the two recipients of the Gary Hobson Volunteer of the Year Award, and was cited for her 14 years as the “Food Lady” for Team Alberta U17.

Olsen is the one who buys all the groceries and cooks many of the meals for Football Alberta’s training camps and other events, Enger said.

“She’s such a dealmaker ... she’s probably saved us over $100,000 in the time she’s been with us,” he said, cutting meal costs by about two-thirds.

Olsen said she was drafted as Football Alberta’s food lady by a friend who knew she had experience cooking big meals for church. Now, she spends countless hours buying food and flipping steaks and burgers for up to 100 hungry players and coaches at a time at events across Alberta and the United States.

“You’re kind of cooking all day,” she said of these mega meals, adding that she does get help from other parent volunteers.

“I always say it’s not about quality, it’s about quantity!” she added, laughing.

Olsen said it’s her job to stock the players up with groceries every day at multi-day camps like the one in Maui – something that typically involves hauling vanloads of food out of the local Costco.

“I thrive on trying to make it as cheap as possible,” she said, adding that she honed her bargain-hunting skills as a full-time mom.

Olsen was also the driving force behind St. Albert’s junior high flag football program and has been its general manager since its inception in 2017. She said she started the league so local kids wouldn’t miss out on the sport, which was hugely popular in Edmonton.

Olsen said she was very grateful, if a bit embarrassed, to receive this award, as she felt there were many others who contributed so much more than she did.

Super coach

Hill received the High School Tier III Coach of the Year Award for leading the Sturgeon Spirits to the Northern Final of the ASAA Provincials last year in only their second year of existence. (High school teams are divided into tiers based on school size.)

Hill is well known around St. Albert, having spent many years revitalizing the Bellerose Bulldogs football program before moving on to Sturgeon Composite to coach the newly formed Spirits, Enger said.

“If you’re going to be coaching against Chad in St. Albert, you’re going to have to work to keep up with his energy because he’s a real Energizer Bunny.”

Hill said he’s been playing football since junior high and started coaching for Bellerose in around 2005, later helping the Bulldogs win four consecutive championships from 2012 to 2015. He moved on to Sturgeon Composite for a change of pace and a chance to build a new team from the ground up.

Hill said the most important part of being a good coach is to be authentic and put your heart into the game.

“You’ve got to be committed, you’ve got to be passionate,” he said, as your players will respond to your passion if you have it.

Hill said this award really should go out to the entire Spirits squad, as the coach might draw up the plays, “but it’s the players who make it work in real life on the field.”

Profiles of this year’s winners have been posted at www.facebook.com/FootballAlberta.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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