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Stepping behind the bench

Joshua Desjardins knows the pain of not being able to play the sport he loves. It’s why the 18-year-old student-athlete stepped up to coach two teams at his high school, Lively District Secondary School, when no one else would.
Lively District Secondary School Grade 12 student athlete Joshua Desjardins has been busy this high school season as a student, athlete and coach. Photo by Scott Haddow.

Joshua Desjardins knows the pain of not being able to play the sport he loves.

It’s why the 18-year-old student-athlete stepped up to coach two teams at his high school, Lively District Secondary School, when no one else would. Desjardins wasn’t going to stand idle and watch younger kids go through the misery he endured the previous year when there was no senior boys basketball season for him because of a lack of players. 

With the volatile situation continuing to brew between the provincial government and elementary and secondary teachers over Bill 115, many schools have been forced to find alternatives for coaches as some teachers who used to volunteer for those positions are not currently coaching. It has left big gaps to fill. 

Desjardins knew he had to fill in as a coach. He knew it was the right thing for him to do. 

He stepped up to take on the challenge, and even when he realized it was going to be tougher than he thought, Desjardins never backed down. He never once regretted the decision. 

Desjardins loves sports. His passion is basketball. He said he would want someone to do the same for him.

No one is forcing Desjardins to do what he is doing. He is doing this out of love for sport and respect for his school, teammates, coaches and teachers. Desjardins is a young man who trusts his feelings and he feels compelled to give his time to help coach and give younger student-athletes a shot to compete — a chance to represent the school. 

Desjardins has never felt this strongly about something before.

“I don’t see it as my duty to do it — I want to do it,” the Grade 12 student said. “I am doing it because I enjoy it. I’m giving back to the school that has given me a lot as an athlete.

“It feels good teaching younger kids and seeing them succeed … it feels really good.”

Desjardins is in his fifth and final year at Lively. He has played big roles in the boys’ basketball, volleyball and soccer programs over the years and is a multiple team MVP and Athlete of the Year. He is also a Hawks Scholar for his academic prowess. 

Sport has helped make Desjardins into the person he is today: Reliable, resourceful, genuine and ready for anything life might throw at him. 

He coached the junior boys’ volleyball team in the fall, bringing them to the regional championship (NOSSA) and second-place overall. He is currently coaching the junior girls’ volleyball team. 

“Sport has always been a huge part of my life,” he said. “I saw younger athletes were going to be missing a whole year of sports. I stepped up to coach so they wouldn’t miss a whole year of playing a sport they love like I had to do. I wanted to make sure they had the opportunity to play.

“I’m trying to be a good role model and keep younger kids’ passion alive for sports.”

Desjardins has been busy. On top of coaching, he also competes for several senior teams himself and plays club basketball, too. He also works part-time at the Home Hardware store in Lively. 

He runs practices at 6:30 a.m., over his lunch break or after school. In-between, he finds time to work on his own game and stay in top shape by hitting the workout room.

“I had one day off in November,” Desjardins said. “It’s not easy. It’s harder than I thought it was going to be. It’s been a challenge, but it has been a great experience.”

There’s a big group of younger student-athletes who appreciate what Desjardins has done for them.
Junior volleyball player, Megan Bell, and her teammates thought there would be no season for them. They were heart-broken. Then Desjardins stepped up.

“We were all upset about not playing,” Bell said. “We were happy when Josh stepped up to coach us. He’s motivated and always gives us things to improve on. He’s always pushing us to do our best. We are all grateful for what he has done. It meant a lot to us.”

Matt Cootes, Lively program leader of physical education and sport, and teacher/coach, has no idea what he would have done this school year without Desjardins — he has been that valuable to the cause of the Hawks. Cootes has watched, first-hand, the impact Desjardins has made. He praised Desjardins’ genuine character and giving nature. 

“This is one busy kid, yet always finds time for everybody else,” Cootes said. “Josh has always been a bright spark for Lively as a whole. The work he has done this year has truly set the bar high. 

“He exemplifies all the best attributes of a leader. He is organized, dedicated and knowledgeable. I could create an endless list of adjectives and verbs to describe all he is and does, as he has been nothing short of amazing for our programs and students.”

Cootes said two descriptions come to mind when he thinks of Desjardins. 

“The first being extremely dependable. Josh has provided so much support, and all through his own initiative and thoughtfulness that makes me wish I could have 15 of him. 

“The other attribute that really sums him up is the manner in which he empowers and instills confidence in all of the athletes he works with,” the program leader continued. “Without the effort he has put in, Lively Athletics would not be in such a good place. We are indebted to his time and commitment.”

Desjardins sees coaching as a potential constant in his life from now on. “Depending on school, I might come back and coach next year at Lively. I would love to. I have the passion for coaching now.”