From Quarterback to Community Leader; Nova Scotia’s Duncan Patterson Eager to Help Grow the Game
When Duncan Patterson, a master’s student at Saint Mary’s University and fifth-year quarterback with the Huskies, took his first steps on the other side of the sideline as a U16 positional coach with the Nova Scotia program, he was doing it mostly to explore his options. He didn’t realize they would be the beginning of a beautiful – and meaningful – community connection.
Patterson, who grew up in Bedford, Nova Scotia, was always involved in football, whether it was from watching influential coaches like Steve Sumarah at an early age to joining his own local tackle football teams and playing on the provincial teams.
“Football is my biggest passion; it has always been. So, if there’s any way that I can give back to the community through the sport, I’m excited to do it,” explained Patterson.
Flashforward to May 2023, and you may have seen Patterson on the sidelines, in a coaching uniform this time, as a member of the coaching staff with the Nova Scotia women’s flag football team competing in the 2023 National Collegiate Flag Football Championship.
“This is my first time coaching flag football, so I’m definitely learning as I go, but I’m thrilled to see events like these because they give a very strong platform for these girls and what they can do,” adds Patterson. “These athletes are phenomenal! While football has historically been a male-dominated sport, there is a space for girls and women to play, and compete at a high level, which is really awesome.”
Patterson is quick to break down any misconceptions about football and the place of women in the sport, challenging any of his peers to pay attention to the action on the field and not their preconceived notions.
“I would say to anyone doubting the place of women and girls in football that until you’ve watched these smart athletes do their thing, you will not be able to form the right opinion; because there is a right opinion on this.”
“Flag football is a great gateway for people to get introduced to football, learn the foundations, and see what they can do and where they want to take it. And I think it only grows from here. We have 16 teams competing this weekend [at the National Collegiate Flag Football Championship] and they are all competitive. Imagine if flag football for women and girls got introduced to the university network through U SPORTS, and that these teams received the support other varsity programs get.”
A celebrated student-athlete himself, Patterson is a four-time Academic All-Canadian during his undergraduate studies at Acadia, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and honours, and was awarded the 2022 Russ Jackson Award, presented to the U SPORTS football athlete best exemplifying the attributes of academic achievement, football skill and citizenship.
If his Nova Scotia team didn’t fair as well as they had hoped for at the Championship in May, collecting only one win in the group stage, Patterson praised his athletes for their commitment to the game and the level of skills they demonstrated.
“Flag football forces athletes to develop strong fundamental skills like running routes, drawing concepts, run coverages in addition to the physical basics of run, catch, throw,” explains Patterson. “It’s a very complex sport with lots of cerebral aspects, something I’ve learned through coaching here the past few days. Tournaments like these showcase that women can produce a really high-quality level of football, no doubt about that. But beyond that, I think flag football has a low entry threshold which makes it a perfect environment for exponential growth. There are a lot of opportunities, financially and from an inclusivity perspective, to promote flag football for people of all ages, genders, and abilities.”
In addition to his time with the Nova Scotia women’s flag football team, Patterson has served as a volunteer offensive assistant coach and quarterback coach with the NS U16 team and was previously a coach with the Valley Bulldogs minor football program. He also dedicates time to participate in fundraising with the likes of Special Olympics Canada’s Marathon of Sport Motionball, the CIBC Run for the Cure, Nova Scotia Alzheimer Society and the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life events. He’s also involved in mentoring and study support for teammates and younger student-athletes. Patterson is entering the second year of his MBA program at Saint Mary University.
“I’m not sure what I’ll be doing in the future, but I know I want to be part of growing the game, especially at the grassroots,” concludes Patterson. “I think that’s something I definitely want to be part of. Football is a bit of an escape from the whirlwind around us, and coaching doesn’t feel like work to me. I enjoy being around the game, and seeing so many kids share the same passion I had when I was their age.”