We are pleased to launch a new series featuring StFX Soccer alumni from across the globe. Starting with Philip Panet Raymond (Class of '89) we will be showcasing original content authored by former players and staff highlighting how their time with StFX Soccer impacted their lives.
Philip hails from Montreal, QC and played with the X-Men from 1985-1989. He is a staunch supporter of StFX Varsity Soccer and was kind enough to give a speech to the 2012 X-Men squad before their Homecoming game that year. He has now been generous enough to provide us with the original transcript of that speech:
In 1995, after having been incarcerated for over 27 years, after having united his country, a country that was systematically divided by racial discrimination; after having watched the new Republic of South Africa’s national team miraculously win the rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela said the following:
"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination."
Ten years before that, in early September of 1985, in an old army barracks on the outskirts of St-John’s, Newfoundland, I found myself bracing in a chair as if waiting for something bad to happen….as 10 or so teammates (and upper classmen) surrounded me and began the process of initiating me to the team.
“Don’t move”, someone said, “don’t move.” There was no fear, only anticipation. After what seemed to be a month straight of practice…..running, running and more running, did this finally mean that I was close to being a full-fledged member of the team? Whatever was coming, it would be worth it, I would be in…treated like an equal. After all, I worked hard to get here, I had earned my place. And then I heard it, the buzzing of an electric razor like a bee around my head. “Don’t move,” I heard again.
Within seconds the deed was done. I had been initiated into to the team. "That’s it?" I thought to myself, that wasn’t so bad…until I got back to Antigonish and people said, "there's something different about you"...yes, there was. They obviously didn't think that having one eye brow was as cool as having two. They obviously didn't think that having one eye brow was as cool as I thought it was. It didn’t matter....I had found my place on the team.
You are all aware, or have heard of, the Xaverian family. Though it may not mean a lot to you now, as time moves ahead, you will come to understand the true meaning of family. And each of you, each of us, belong to something more. We are a family of elite athletes...past, present and future.
You see, for over fifty years, many proud and loyal hands have laid stones in what has become the X-Men house. And the pillars that make up the foundation of this house, are all around you. From the president of the university (who he himself wore the blue and white), to members of your coaching staff, to alumni... who not only have a ring on their finger, but will forever have an X over their hearts.....we are all with you.
And every year, we raise the roof of the X-Men house and we build another floor. We build it with new coaches, we build it with new players, but most of all, we build it with a renewed commitment to the values that will make each of you leaders on the field, in the classroom and in your lives.
Each and every one of you, from this moment forward, has the opportunity to do great things. And these opportunities, have been given to you by your parents, by your former and current coaches, but most all, they will be given to you, by those on either side of you.
Soon after I finished StFX and joined the real world, somebody asked me, "how would you define success?" And the question has dogged me ever since. I came to learn that success was not necessarily about the amount of money we make, the size of the house that we live in, the title that we carry, or the letters behind our name. As time went on, I came to the realization that success, the true meaning of success, was about the relationships that we forge and cultivate over the course of a lifetime. Relationships with friends, relationships in business, but most of all, relationships with family.
I often tell people who have never heard of StFX or where it is, how lucky I was to have attended a small school in eastern Nova Scotia, whose motto is, "Quaecumque Sunt Vera." While this might mean anything to anybody, to me, it has come to mean tolook for the best in people, and never stop thinking of ways to bring out the best in the people around you.....whatsoever things are true....
Each and every day, every one of you makes choices. And those choices are a reflection of who you are. And who you are, in this context, is a member of the St Francis Xavier X-Men soccer team. Your actions, both on and off the field impact not just you, but those who proudly wore the team colours before you and those who are working toward wearing them after you.
How you carry yourselves, as players, as students, and as young men is being watched - whether you are aware of it or not. Victories are empty without humility. And Championships are empty without integrity. Values such as pride, honour and respect can sometimes outweigh the short-lived thrill of an unfair victory.
When I was a teenager, not unlike many teenagers and young people I have come to know over the years, I was a little socially awkward and unsure about where and how I fit in. I had friends, sure, but I still felt like somewhat of an outsider until I began to devote a big piece of my life to what would become called, the beautiful game. I had made my connection.
When my children came along, I became involved in coaching and have been involved with our local club ever since. It is the same club that I was a part of as a young boy growing up.
In the fall of 2010, I was contacted by an older gentleman who said he had been involved with our club many years before. So I agreed to meet him at the offices of the Quebec Soccer Federation. In the presence of the executive committee of the Federation, he opened up a binder and said to me with utmost humility, "this is for you."
What I came to learn, as he turned the pages of this binder, was that this little old man, had begun our local soccer club in 1955; founded the leagues which I went on to play in; sought sponsorships from various local businesses to buy kids boots who could not otherwise afford them; He organized coaching clinics at a time when most people in Canada had never even heard of soccer; he asked local farmers to give up some of their unused land and converted them to soccer fields; he organized trips to far away tournaments so that kids could live new experiences.
As he explained his way through some of the pictures of championship teams and press clippings of big games (most of which were played before I was born), it became clear that this gentleman had gone on to do more than just run a local club. He went on to serve in various positions on the provincial and national soccer scene. And eventually became president of the Canadian Minor Soccer Association, what would become the Canadian Soccer Association.
As he turned to the last page of his binder, there he was, in a picutre next to the great Pele, circa 1974. What started with 10 kids in a field next to a church over half a century before had become a club with over 1600 players. In July of this year, we celebrated his contribution to soccer by erecting a plaque at one of our local fields.
In the presence of several hundred young players, and with tears rolling down his face, he said, "My god, how it's changed." At the end of this magical day, I handed him a handwritten note, and at the bottom I had written, "Thank you for all that you have done, soccer saved my life."
You see, soccer has given to me far more than I could ever give back to it. StFX has given to me far more than I could ever give back to it.
As hard as each of you have worked to get here, wearing the team colors is, was, and will always remain, a privilege.
Until the birth of my son, my four years here were the best years of my life. These are good times....savour them, cherish them, seize them.
For you...for those before you....and for those who follow.
If would like to submit your own piece, or know of someone we should reach out to, please contact Josh MacIntyre at [email protected]