Farhan Lalji announced he was stepping down as head coach of the New Westminster Hyacks Football program on Wednesday evening. For anyone who has been involved in British Columbia HighSchool Football in the last 18 years, Farhan has made an impact on you in some way or another. Whether you graduated in 2006 like me or had to match up against the TSN Coaching juggernaut into the 2010s. Farhan always set the standards in what a program could be.
Rob Stevenson, head coach of the John Barsby Bulldawgs could attest, “A consummate builder, He really set a high bar with the way he set up the New West program.”
I never had the chance to face the New Westminster Hyacks in my time playing or coaching for the John Barsby Bulldawgs. That didn’t mean his reach didn’t extend to me or High School Football on Vancouver Island. Or everywhere in British Columbia for that matter. I might have found just the tip of the iceberg with stories coming in from everyone. One thing I did find out was how he personally affected me in High School at one point.
“I remember how grateful I was when we went over to play in their 7 on 7 passing tournaments and he was kind enough to get us a van, he didn’t have to do that and it spoke to the giving nature he had, then let’s get it done attitude.” my former coach Stevenson shared with me. Thanks, Farhan!
Neil McEvoy was someone who was quick to get back to me. The Co-General Manager of Football Operations for the BC Lions spoke about his growth beyond athletes, how he was able to create a strong coaching chain. “Farhan has been able to reach players and additional coaches, those are all things that make the sport of football great and you need that to complement the game.”
Gord Randall, Head coach of Sullivan Heights High School Football team, could speak directly to his coaching tree having come from it. “I was taking the teacher education program and playing at UBC, and I was placed for my student teaching practicum at New West. I had specifically requested a football school because I knew I wanted to coach, and it would be a good way to get my foot in the door to try and get a job afterwards.”
“I connected with a couple of his former players on my team and got in touch with him. As it typically goes with coaching in this province, someone coming out of the woodwork and offering to help is eagerly snapped up, so I started at the tail end of their 2012 season helping out. That was the start of my personal relationship with him, though obviously like most sportspeople growing up in this area I was very much familiar with who he was prior to that.”
Alumni players were also very happy to give their thoughts on a former coach. “Farhan made sure everyone had the best chance to succeed, he made sure there was extra training available, he had us training with a world-class Olympian. I wouldn’t have been able to get the scholarships I got without the help of Farhan.” Tyler Digby a now professional lacrosse player on his former High School Football coach Farhan Lalji.
His reach transcended sports, “He was probably the number one guy in the province in terms of reaching out to post secondary programs for his students athletes as well as other programs.” Rob Stevenson outlined and it was very evident.
A Start To Coaching For Farhan Lalji And Building A Winning Program At New West
Farhan Lalji got his start coaching High School Football with the New Westminster Hyacks in 2003. His coaching days started well before that but it was Farhan that put the Hyacks program on notice. “I firmly believe that without the efforts of Farhan, there is no Hyack football…he literally brought that program to life…not only did he personally go out into the Business Community in search of financial support (which he got,) most importantly he made the Hyack’s part of the Community.” Said Jay Janower.
Jay talked about a moment when he was finishing up with Farhan Lalji for a story when he had to coordinate his team going out and cutting lawns and doing yard work for senior citizens in the community.
“For a guy with such a prominent profile in the football community across this country, it was always a treat for me to see Farhan in his real element – pacing the sidelines in a pair of shorts (ALWAYS shorts) at some football field around here” Gord was happy to be a part of Farhan’s journey. “I’m happy for the role I was able to play in helping his legacy grow in New West and the championship I could help bring home.”
Farhan Lalji was finally able to reach the pinnacle of success in BCHSFB lifting the AAA Senior Trophy in 2017. “High school football in the province in BC is very competitive, there is a lot of guys that have backgrounds at the professional ranks and the university ranks, it’s a testament to the growth he brought that program, finally getting to that championship level is something,” Said Neil McEvoy.
The End of An Era That Won’t Be Forgotten
There were so many people who were happy to talk to me about Farhan and his contributions to BC High School Football. Sukh Parmar, Head Football Coach, Sardis Secondary School, in Chilliwack “He has done so much to increase the profile of B.C. High School Football. He built the Hyack Football program to prominence. He was always helpful to new coaches and football programs in the province. Tough to see him go.”
Gord could recall a time when Farhan was happy to help out a rival team, “I recall in our very first spring camp, we didn’t yet have enough money for any practice equipment (tackling bags and such), and so I called Farhan and he scrounged up a bunch of their older stuff to let us use and get better.”
“He was instrumental in outreach to the wider provincial sporting community,” said Rob Stevenson, “[He} did an amazing job raising the High School game with the media.” Something that Jay Janower from Global BC would reiterate. “He truly was/is a Community leader”
“Farhan had already instilled in the boys their Community responsibilities…to see these young boys buy-in and eagerly discuss doing this would make any teacher, coach, or parent proud.”
Gord would add, “You see a lot of coaches that bond with their players and care deeply about their football program, but Farhan truly went the extra mile to help players grow as human beings first and foremost.”
Farhan stated that he will be stepping aside to the next phase of his life. Whatever that is I for one wish him all the best for everything he has done for me. Even if I may not have known at the time!
Sports Talk Line And BC High School Football
Of course, I could never say it as eloquently as Farhan himself, and that is what makes him so special. He released a statement about the path he would be taking in his journey.
Farhan Lalji has and will continue to have a huge impact on British Columbia High School Football. “I sure hope he stays in touch with the game and is available to consult because he can mentor a lot of people.” Stevenson would end with. This sentiment was shared by everyone I spoke to.
For more coverage of BC, High School Football make sure to check back in the fall to Sports Talk Line. I will be able to make it out to the field a bit more this year and cover some of the future athletes and programs that Farhan has shaped. Follow me on Twitter @JoshuaGriffith0 for more sports news and updates.