Kelly Bates Football Camp presents MVP to female player for first time

MUENSTER — The most valuable player at the Kelly Bates Football Camp had a tremendous attitude, made an effort to get better with every play and was extremely coachable.

Emily Yanish is a Grade 8 student from Melville. She, along with Tisdale’s Tilka Chapman and Nipawin’s Tegan Livingston, were the first three girls to attend the camp in its 13 year history.

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“Wow. I never expected to be MVP ever,” she told the Journal a few minutes after receiving the award.

The football camp was held at St. Peter’s College from May 4 to 5.

The MVP is a special award at the camp, one that’s not just based on raw skill.

“It's based on sportsmanship, leadership and it's about lifting people up,” said Kelly Bates, the camp’s head coach and namesake. “It's not about being the best player; it's about being the best part of the community.”

It’s also about honouring three Carrot River football players, Carter Stevenson, Kristian Skalicky and Justin Gaja, who went to the camp and died in a crash on the way home.

Bates told Yanish during the award ceremony to understand what she brings to the table.

“When you start to make a foray into a world that hasn’t necessarily included you up to this point,” he told the Journal later, “you’ve got to have the best attitude in the world, you’ve got to work harder than the person next to you because you’re only going to get ahead doing that.”

Bates said he was pleased to see Yanish, Chapman and Livingston at the camp.

“They made me very proud as a father to six- and nine-year-old little girls, to see you three here doing what you did,” he told them during the awards.

He said it was a great experience for the coaches having them on the field and that once they were suited up and on the field, they didn’t stick out as they had the same kind of skill level and coachability as everyone else.

The football camp, which focuses on developing football skills in rural Saskatchewan rather than scouting for teams, had around 100 attend. Many of the coaches had CFL connections, like Chris Getzlaf, Chris Streveler, Neal Hughes, Scott McHenry, Evan Johnson and Adam Bighill. Local coaches were Tom Schwinghamer and Shaun Gardiner.

Bates, who was born in Humboldt, was a former football guard who played for the BC Lions, Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He is now an offensive quality control coach for the Eskimos.

He said the annual camp brings him immense joy.

“The ability to attempt to make a difference in a community, that means a lot to me, both in the community of Humboldt and the community of football in general,” he said. “I certainly hope I get to continue to do it for a while.

Yanish said she decided to come to gain more experience with football and learn from different coaches. She told the Journal that’s exactly what she got from the camp.

“This has been awesome,” she said. “I've learned so much.”

She said she’d recommend the camp to others.

“You got to go out and try it. Even if it's just for a year, just try it.”

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