Nick Lazar and Claude Lessard named Football Canada Coaches of the Year
Earn inaugural national U14 & U18 coaching awards
Football Canada has named Nick Lazar (Hamilton, ON) the national U14 Community Coach of the Year while Claude Lessard (Granby, QC) has earned the U18 Community Coach of the Year award. Lazar and Lessard are the inaugural recipients of Football Canada’s Coach of the Year awards.
“Football coaches do a tremendous job across the country, volunteering countless hours to make sure that youth get the chance to enjoy the sport in a safe and fun manner,” said Aaron Geisler, Manager of Development, Football Canada. “These two awards are intended to honour Canadian football coaches who go above and beyond to make a difference to youth in their community.”
Nick Lazar – Football Canada U14 Coach of the Year
Lazar recently served as head coach for the Bantam Junior Tiger Cats, leading the team to an undefeated season and a provincial championship. He also served as a defensive coach with the Hamilton Hurricanes who won an OFC provincial championship. In addition to his on-field work, Nick also acts as an NCCP facilitator, educating coaches on how to teach Football Canada’s Safe Contact program.
“Outside of football, Nick and his wife had been long-term foster parents, fostering high risk teen boys,” said of Lazar in a nomination essay.
Nick puts his skills as an educational assistant to good use on the football field, helping and encouraging his players to grow and build self-confidence.
“Nick engaged each and every player and knew something about that player outside of the game of football and made sure, throughout practice, that he engaged each one of our kids in conversation.”
He also used his skill-set to help a former player with a mild form of autism grow their social skills, confidence and self-esteem.
“Words cannot begin to explain the time from April to August,” said one parent in nomination of Lazar. “I witnessed my son grow socially with confidence and self-esteem that made his transition from grade 8 to grade 9 (high school) just out of this world.”
Claude Lessard – Football Canada U18 Coach of the Year
Claude Lessard is a 33-year coaching veteran who spent the past season as head coach, special teams coordinator and offensive line coach at the Collège de Mont-Sacré Coeur at the juvénile (high school) level in Granby, Quebec.
“This team is like a second family for Claude and he acts like a second father for his players who can always count on him during difficult times,” said of Lessard in a nomination submission. “Like every good father, he encourages his boys to become young adults, teaching them to respect each other and gain self-confidence.”
Lessard has extensive coaching experience at various levels in Quebec from benjamin (12-13 year olds) to collegial (cégep) as he looks to instill lifelong qualities through football.
“Perseverance is the quality he seeks to develop in each of his players, since this quality, according to him, helps in every action that one undertakes to achieve one’s goal.”
The veteran Granby coach is passionate about the sport, safety and learning new techniques.
“He’s always built his teams using safe drills and taught the best techniques he learned at football clinics in Canada and the U.S. to avoid injuries. He is rigorous in his teaching and asks the same from his assistant coaches. The players are the priority and ‘fun must come first’ is his motto.”
An educator by trade, Lessard stresses the importance of school to his players and put their studies ahead of football, even if it means missing a practice or game. He goes the extra mile with his players, encouraging them to participate in post-season showcase games in preparation for the jump to the collegial (cégep) level after grade 11. Coach Claude also guides them as they explore options to pursue their academic studies at the next level.
“He always questions their future plans. This gesture is really appreciated amongst his players because they know that they can count on him when making their transition to cégep.”
About the Awards
Football Canada’s Community Coach of the Year awards help recognize the positive impact of active community, club, and high school coaches from across Canada who dedicate themselves to the development of youth both on and off the field.
Applicants were asked to consider how the coach teaches respect, safety, motivation, leadership and appreciation for the game of football when drafting their nominations.
- Has a positive impact on their athletes and community
- Shows dedication to the development of youth both on and off the field
- To be eligible, coaches must be members of Football Canada through their respective Provincial Football Association
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