Kirk on mission to help Team ‘Toba


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Scott Kirk knows even the best-laid plans sometimes have to change.

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This article was published 30/07/2022 (241 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Scott Kirk knows even the best-laid plans sometimes have to change.

When they do, it’s his job to make it as stress-free as possible for his athletes. The Brandonite will be at the 2022 Canada Games in Niagara, Ont., on Team Manitoba’s mission staff as the games take place from Aug. 6 to 21.

“It’s very exciting,” Kirk said. “It’s a privilege to be selected to be part of this group … I know all the mission staff and leadership at Sport Manitoba are super excited as well to finally get to the Games and participate, see what the athletes can do for Manitoba.”

Kirk is with the swimming team during Week 1, then male box lacrosse in Week 2. His expertise varies significantly between the two.

Kirk got involved in swimming back in 2010 after his daughter, Shay, joined the Brandon Bluefins club. His younger daughter, Erin, competed as well, and Scott became an official, then joined the Bluefins board as chair of officials.

He served as sport chair for swimming at the 2017 Canada Games in Winnipeg, which meant one or more monthly meetings in the years leading up and a bunch of long days during the competition week. Kirk — who works as director of acute care at Brandon Regional Health Centre — learned a lot, quickly realizing the importance of his teammates.

“The most important thing is that everyone brings value and teamwork,” Kirk said. “You’re not in this alone, so you learn to depend on others. You still have to think on your own but you depend on those other people and you’re part of a team, even though you’re working behind the scenes, you’re not an athlete … you’re really helping support those athletes and give them the best experience.”

Both as a sport chair and mission staff member, every decision comes down to what’s best for the athletes. That meant a tough decision in 2017 when high E. coli levels were detected at Birds Hill Park, the open-water swim site. The volunteer team had to work with Swim Canada, provincial team coaches and Sport Manitoba to make a call, which in this case was to move the 5,000-metre race to Pan Am Pool.

“You have to be able to pivot quickly and accept what happens, go with the best plans you can and hopefully it works out for the best, which it did,” Kirk said.

He got his first mission staff experience at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current, Sask. He said the biggest surprise that week was how much co-ordination is required to get all the athletes fed and where they need to be on time. It was easier as his swim team didn’t have to travel from Swift Current Comprehensive, where they stayed, to the aquatic centre, but other teams were constantly focused on departure and arrival times.

When athletes come back from Games, they often talk about how many sports they were able to watch and how many friends they made. Whether they realize it, mission staff play a key role in that as they keep everyone organized.

Kirk says his highlight of the Games is seeing how excited the athletes are throughout the week.

“This is the culmination of some athletes’ careers, right?” Kirk said. “This is the pinnacle of what they’ll see so to live through that experience of them and also experience it yourself.

“This may be your last Games to participate and help volunteer as well so you try to really experience everything you can with it, take it all in, enjoy it yourself but also with the others around you.”

Kirk’s father, Ray, was a physical education teacher in Morden and instilled a passion for sports at a young age. Scott played hockey, baseball, soccer, golf and more before transitioning into cycling and running after school.

He’s an “avid fan of all sports” so it was easy to get into box lacrosse when he was asked to work with the team in Week 2. Canada’s national sport returns to the games after 37 years — it was included from 1969 to 1985, then dropped.

Box lacrosse resembles hockey as it’s played in an arena with the boards up but ice removed, five-on-five plus goaltenders with substitutions on the fly. Carberry’s Izzy Graham is on the female team competing in Week 1.

“I’ve been able to watch some of the games in person and it’s a fast, fascinating sport, completely different but I’m actually loving it. I’m learning and seeing what the athletes can do out there and really looking forward to seeing them play,” Kirk said.

“I want all athletes to have a good experience but because it’s been so long and … bringing it back in, I really want to make sure they have an experience like they haven’t had before.”


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