by Jamie Witham
March 26 was not only an important game for the Calgary Roughnecks lacrosse team vying for a playoff spot, but for breast cancer awareness as well. The “Black Out Breast Cancer” event was just one of many meant to showcase the Roughnecks commitment to the community – both on-and-off the field. This game marked the first of a series of home games that the NLL is hosting for breast cancer awareness. The Roughnecks sported pink helmets against the Minnesota Swarm that were later auctioned off, and the guys also wore pink ties to show their support after the match.
When interviewed about player involvement in the community, defenceman Bruce Codd said, “No doubt that’s a big responsibility as a player.” He also noted that the teams’ visibility in the community brings people in to the games – a successful relationship that works to everyone’s mutual benefit. With most of the Roughnecks having full-time day jobs in addition to their athletic careers, they have to effectively balance their roles as community ambassadors with the other responsibilities in their lives. Since much of the team doesn’t even live in Calgary, this is a feat in and of itself.
The team doesn’t have dedicated community personnel working for them – instead, they have the players themselves. Unlike other professional organizations like many football and hockey teams, the staff that works for the Roughnecks is quite small and you’re more likely to have your questions answered by a player working in the office than almost anyone else.
It’s not just special promotions at games and the player attendance at fundraisers that mark the teams’ commitment to giving back either: the Roughnecks’ Foundation was established by the team in 2005 to further give back to the Calgary area. The foundation helps to fund various charities in and around Calgary through donations, 50/50 ticket raffles held at every game and various other fundraising activities throughout the year. Since its creation in 2005, money given out to the community has increased from around $66,000 in 2006 to nearly $130,000 over the course of 2009.
In addition, students with a love of athletics have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship worth $2,000 every year – a scholarship that promotes the balance between academics and athletic ability. Interested students can apply directly or by mail, to the Roughnecks’ office. In partnership with Cardel Homes, the Roughnecks players participate in an annual half-day training camp with children. Lucky kids win a spot at the event and spend time learning from the pros.
Balancing all the requests for donations doesn’t really affect the game however. As the team heads towards playoff season—as last year’s returning champs—the focus is on playing the game, surrounded by the fans and the community.