Bending over backwards for St. Paul sports
Sports in St. Paul simply wouldn’t exist without the tireless efforts of volunteers, and the husband and wife combo of Richard and Sylvie Smyl has been pivotal in ensuring local kids have access to gymnastics, soccer and a splash park.
“It’s nice seeing communities benefit from different activities. Especially for myself, a lot of what I like to do is things that benefit health and wellness in kids,” said Richard, adding volunteering has always been important to him and his family. “My family volunteered in a lot of things in the past. From fire departments and ag societies, to 4-H and everything else. It just kind of continued on for me.”
Richard is the technical director for the St. Paul Soccer Association, director of St. Paul Soccer Facilities, and he just stepped down as president of Lakeland District Soccer. Despite Richard’s involvement in local soccer, he never played the game growing up. In fact, it was the interest of his children - Mikayla, Courtney, Sara and now Masynn – that got Richard involved in the beautiful game.
“With my kids growing up to be that certain age to join things, that’s how I get involved. I never played soccer in the past, but because of the children you get to learn those things pretty fast,” said Richard. “It’s hard for me to just sit back and watch. If I’m going to be there I might as well get somewhat involved. So I took on a coaching role, and the same year they asked me to join the association.”
It wasn’t long before Sylvie caught the volunteering bug from her husband Richard, and soon enough she began taking on multiple roles in the community. Right now she is web coordinator with St. Paul Soccer, founder and president of the St. Paul Gymnastics Club, board member with the St. Paul Splash Park Committee and a member of the Champions for Change Downtown Committee for Canada Day celebrations.
“I probably wouldn’t be volunteering as much as I am now without (Richard’s) help and without his push,” said Sylvie. “If you’re wanting to see something happen within the community, I think it’s fairly easy to get on board with any group and make it happen . . .whatever it is that you’re passionate about and whatever it is that you want to see in your community. I think it’s cool that you can make it happen with help from others.”
Around four years ago, Sylvie decided to look into the possibility of hosting a gymnastics club in St. Paul. Thanks to the collective volunteer efforts of Smyl, and many other community members, the goal of bringing gymnastics to St. Paul came to fruition this year.
“I had started doing some digging to see if there were any coaches around the area, if there was any equipment around the area and that kind of thing. Then I basically just called a town meeting to see if there was an interest in this type of group, how much interest and how much help we would have to start it up,” said Sylvie.
“We created a board that night, and then it basically took off from there. From the get-go we had local coaches and we had a lot of volunteers that wanted to see this happen in our community . . . our board has been very passionate and hard working. It definitely is a group effort, and it’s been really rewarding. It’s almost surreal. It’s really cool to see it happen in front of your eyes.”
Richard said it is important to get involved as a volunteer, especially in a small town like St. Paul, as it helps the community develop and thrive.
“If you want to have a say in something, you might as well get involved and get your hands dirty as well,” said Richard. “I think Sylvie, like myself, she has a passion for wanting to help out the community, wanting to see better things for the community and see the community flourish in different things.”
Sylvie added, while it may have taken a gentle push from Richard to get her involved in volunteering, she has no regrets, and recommends anyone considering volunteering their time with a local organization to get involved.
“I would say take the leap and do it,” said Sylvie. “It’s very fulfilling in seeing the fruits of your labour happen. It helps develop friendships and partnerships, and it gets you involved in the community.”