First Year Coaching

First Year Coaching

This past 2017 season for the Peace Wapiti Academy Titans volleyball team, began a new job for Spencer Matlock, Bezanson alumni, as an assistant coach. Matlock played volleyball at Bezanson school from 2009-2014 and moved onto Peace Wapiti Academy where he played from 2014-2017. The Titans this season won 2 silver medals, 1 gold medal and won zones which resulted in them attending 3A Men’s Volleyball Provincials. The 2017 season was the first year of Matlock’s coaching and he had to go through the same transition as any coach. Matlock says, “It was a good transition but it definitely felt weird. I always had that feeling to get on the court and play because of my love for the game. Being on the sideline, as a coach, has really made me look at the game differently.” The transition from a player to a coach teaches that individual a lot about themselves and about the game. Matlock says that he has learned a lot from this new experience.

“I’ve learned that being a coach isn’t just knowing the sport your coaching it’s being able to connect to all the aspects and skills that are used. Being able to help a player improve while improving yourself as a coach and even though I’ve played volleyball for a lot of years and I’ve now coached one year, I’m still learning everyday. My main reason for wanting to coach was to stay around the game as much as possible because I enjoy everything about it.”

-Spencer Matlock

Matlock grew up in Bezanson and has been very successful in his community, from sports to academics and more. Volleyball was not the only sport that Matlock played though. He excelled in baseball for the Grande Prairie Reds for many years. Matlock was a very skilled multi-sport athlete who is now giving back to his community through sport. Matlock talks about

his community and how it has influenced him in this journey from being an athlete to being a coach.

“Growing up in such a small community, you have so many people that influence you in multiple different ways. Going from teachers who wouldn’t give up on you to the many coaches over the years. Mainly, I’d say having Les Sonnenberg, as a basketball coach, and my mother, Carol Matlock, as my volleyball coach really helped build my character to want to coach and just express my passion for a sport like they did.”

-Spencer Matlock

After being asked what advice Matlock would give to students coming from a small town, he says:

“I would tell kids not to limit themselves on what they do. If you like every sport possible, play them all, if you like multiple activities, push yourself to do them all to the best of your ability because one day, you won’t have the opportunity to play that anymore or eventually you will have to give it up. Take advantage of everything your community can offer you and enjoy it! If you set your mind to a certain goal, never give up on that goal and continue to strive for it until you reach it!”

-Spencer Matlock

The Bezanson community is filled with individuals giving back to their community through many different ways. Coaching can open up doors for athletes and direct them on the right path. Coaching can also help build confidence and teach them lifelong lessons. There is no limit to what giving back to the community, from coaching or anything can do.

“ In such a small community people need to step up, and that’s what I love about our community. So many people are always stepping up in different scenarios, and I wanted to be a part of that as much as possible because I believe that I’m improving my community when I give back to it. Helping teach the skills I know to possibly help a kid play college volleyball maybe or just help guide them in the right direction is a wonderful feeling.”

-Spencer Matlock

written by Ally Pilgrim

New Season, New Role


Photo by Randy Vanderveen

Coming into the 2017-2018 ACAC season, Bezanson-alumni Evan Lloyd has stepped up into a new role as the head coach of the Grande Prairie Regional College’s Wolves Men’s Basketball team.

Evan attended Bezanson school from 1993-2003 and Peace Wapiti Academy from 2004-2007. His coaching career began at Peace Wapiti Academy in 2007 and continued at the high-school until 2015 where he stepped down and began his new journey. Evan received a Titan of Today award at Peace Wapiti Academy around 2010-2011. “It was a great honour to win that,” says Evan. Evan also coached the first boy’s basketball team at Peace Wapiti Academy to make provincials which was only the start of his appearances at provincials. Evan ended up going to provincials the 5 out of the 8 years of coaching. Alongside Evan’s high-school coaching role was also head-coaching and assistant-coaching Junior Wolves Basketball for the past 5 summers. He first joined the GPRC basketball program as an assistant coach for the men’s basketball program under Jonathan Verhesen in 2015. The following year was when he stepped down from coaching at the high-school level and joined Thomas Slifka as a full-time assistant coach as well as taking on a new role as the lead-assistant coach. Evan had this role for 2 years and has now stepped up as the Interim Head Coach of the GPRC Wolves men’s basketball program this 2017-2018 season.

Coaching at the ACAC level is much different from coaching at the high-school level. Evan says the athletes are “much more fundamentally skilled, more athletic, bigger, and stronger” and the opposing coaches have “very basketball-savvy minds” who are “very skilled at exploiting what your team isn’t very good at.”

Another huge difference from the high-school level to the ACAC level is the time commitment.

“Coaching at this level is essentially a full-time job, with practice everyday of the week, breaking down our film, opponent film, doing scouts, having study halls, and doing mental skill sessions. Where as a high school coach you may have 3 practices a week, and don’t have to do film every week on the teams you face.

-Evan Lloyd

Photo by Randy Vanderveen

Each coach has a different skillset and personality. Coaches develop these two things through experience and through how their coaches had coached them.

“I think the best skillset I bring to coaching is the knowledge of the game from a strategic level, along with that I think another great skillset to have is the ability to create positive relationship with players. After it is all said and done, when ever I decide to hang up the clipboard, I want to be remembered as a great coach, a winner, and a friend to anyone involved in my programs.”

-Evan Lloyd

Thomas Slifka, former head coach of the GPRC Wolves Men’s basketball team, head-coached in Evan’s first year of being a full-time, lead, assistant coach. After asking Thomas to give us some feedback on Evan, he only had good things to say.

“Evan was my lead assistant for two years and I am very happy he has the opportunity to show he can lead Wolves Men’s Basketball.  Evan is incredibly passionate about the game of basketball and he absolutely will use that passion to drive him to success at the post-secondary level. He is such a great asset for GPRC and I have no doubt he will lead the team to success in the classroom, on-court, and in the community.””

-Thomas Slifka

Evan says that he had many obstacles to face, such as the “growing pains of being a young coach and finding the right methods to coach athletes.” Young coaches must grow and develop through learning as well and they start off with what they know. Evan says, “we ran a lot on my high school teams, so in my first couple years of coaching we would spend so much time running instead of working on fundamentals, or skill development. But as you grow as a coach, you find the best methods to convey messages and ideas to athletes.”

“I think a big influence on me to coach was having my dad as a coach in grade’s 10 & 11 at Peace Wapiti Academy. Although our teams weren’t the greatest or he wasn’t the most technically sound coach he still had passion, and inspired us to be better basketball players and individuals. I also knew the game pretty well from a strategic stand-point, so I had a knack for understanding the game. Another influence on me was one of my basketball coaches back in Bezanson, Dennis Maxwell. He coached me when I was younger, and I remember him helping me fix my shot one practice when I was just starting to get into basketball. But the way he was able to teach and help young athletes develop always stuck with me, especially at a young age. If I maybe had a bad experience with a coach at that age, I might not have gotten in to basketball.”

-Evan Lloyd

Photo by @gprcwolves

Coaching is an incredible way to give back to the community. Evan has been giving back to the community since 2005 and continues to, to this day.

There is nothing better than the feeling of giving back to the community that you live in or the community you come from. That community helped shaped you to the individual you are today. When you’re older, and in a position of influence you can provide so much to young students/athletes. My advice to young students would be start giving back now, older students give back to younger ones, whether it is with advice, knowledge, guidance, or just being a positive role model. Doing this at a young age prepares kids for a lifetime of giving back.”

-Evan Lloyd

Coming from a small school/community has its positives and negatives. The positives outweigh the negatives in Evan’s case as he talks about the joys of living in Bezanson and attending Bezanson School.

“There are so many positives about going to Bezanson school and living in the community. Majority of my family grew up/ went to school in Bezanson. The smaller class sizes allow for a closer relationship with the teachers, and creates a better learning environment. Also having a community that provides a lot of opportunities for it’s residences/students some examples are the new improved hockey arena, the incoming community center, baseball tournaments, curling bonspiels, and a FANTASTIC Lefty’s restaurant. The Bezanson community is great, close nit and relaxed.”

-Evan Lloyd

We wish Evan and his GPRC Wolves the best in this 2017-2018 ACAC season!

By Ally Pilgrim

Alberta Transportation’s Proposed Changes to Highway 43 / Highway 733 Interchange

Immediate Action Needed!!

The County of Grande Prairie has heard from Alberta Transportation that they have chosen an interim (Option 7) from a number of options presented to the County of Grande Prairie to change the intersection at Hwy 43 and Hwy 733. The County of Grande Prairie has already expressed concerns with Alberta Transportation about the options that have been designed in regards to the interchange at Highway 43 & Hwy 733 in an effort to make this a safe intersection and reduce the number of accidents. The County of Grande Prairie requested that the proposed diamond interchange be constructed with the east access to the Bezanson Community remaining open. Alberta Transportation has indicated to the County that they are planning on possibly proceeding with “Option 7” in the immediate future.

“Option 7” outlines the interim design Alberta Transportation is proposing as a short-term solution for the Highway 43 and Highway 733 intersection (attachment provided). Also attached is the Highway 43 East Plan that indicates the east access to be closed along Highway 43 into Bezanson and the footprint of the final interchange which is a future plan of Alberta Transportation.

The proposed changes to Highway 43 and Highway 733 will affect the community of Bezanson. It is questionable as to whether this option will increase the safety at this intersection or create new challenges and Bezanson’s future as a community will be redefined with this plan and the future plans of Alberta Transportation. Not only will there be an economic and community impact to the Bezanson area, but the emergency needs of the community and area will be affected as First Responders will have to proceed to the west entrance of Bezanson which will affect the response time to emergency situations.

The County of Grande Prairie and Todd Loewen-MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky need to hear from the community in order to stop these plans and keep Bezanson flourishing as a community.

Let Todd Loewen, MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky know your opinion at and sign the letter that will be available at the Bezanson General Store or download the letter here, sign it and email it to MLA Todd Loewen.

Voice your concerns with Alberta Transportation’s proposal.

Downloadable Letter of Concern, Letter – Highway 43 Interchange – Option 7

Downloadable PDF  Option 7 – Bezanson









Downloadable PDF Highway 43 East Plan


Learning Scholarships for Community Youth

Foster Park Brokers feels that it’s their role in the community to help encourage the pursuit of passions and skill development for youth in the regions they do business. Grande Prairie and Bezanson are part of those regions.

The Foster Park Community Fund is made up of five learning scholarships valued at $500 each. The scholarships will be provided to youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years to apply to a learning experience of their choice. Whether it be hockey camp, music lessons or study abroad, the parameters are open to whatever ignites their dreams.

We hope to encourage as many youth as possible to apply for the chance to do so with this scholarship. All Junior High and High School students in Grande Prairie and Bezanson qualify to apply. Applications are due by November 30th and we will be announcing recipients of the Foster Park Community Fund by December 15, 2017.

To apply, applicants should complete the following online form which includes a 500 word response on why they are passionate about their desired learning opportunity.

If you are able to share this opportunity with any youth you think it would benefit, please do. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Alex Walsh at Purpose Collective 780-935-5891

Talented College Basketball Star

In his second year of college, Colby Fournier will be playing for the Grande Prairie Regional College Men’s Basketball team. Colby was born a natural athlete. He played basketball, volleyball, badminton, track and field, and hockey at Bezanson School and played basketball, volleyball and rugby for the Peace Wapiti Academy Titans. He has played basketball for a total of 10 years. Colby has had many successes including being a 4-time zone champion, 3 for basketball and 1 for rugby, 3-time high school all-star, 2 for basketball and 1 for volleyball, the 2015 Peace Wapiti Academy Volleyball Most Improved Player, the 2015 Peace Wapiti Academy Basketball Most Valuable Player and the 2015 Peace Wapiti Academy Male Athlete of the Year.

Colby plans to bring it all to this team and try to help the team to, “make its way back to playoffs and make an appearance at nationals” and to, “come in to the rookie year and make an impact on the team and program on and off the court.” Being an incredible athlete, Colby is definitely going to be a great addition to the team. On top of his goals for the court, Colby also will be working hard in the classroom. He is currently taking heavy equipment technician at the Fairview Campus with the goal of becoming a ticketed mechanic and to run his own service truck. He hopes to, “improve [his] skills and knowledge” in the classroom as well. Colby also talks about his future and what it could have in store for him. “University basketball right now isn’t a top priority to me but is something I’m interested in. Right now, I’m focused on the season ahead right now and do what I can to make this team better,” says Colby.

When it comes to talking about Bezanson, Colby has only good things to say. “Bezanson’s athletic program is awesome. They provide a family feel at that school. Teachers and students know each other very well, everyone looks out for each other’s well being.” His advice for those coming from a small town like Bezanson was, “to always work hard and never think you can’t accomplish something because of where you come from.”

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my parents, for their support, friends and coaches, for teaching the skills to be successful and to always work hard.”

-Colby Fournier





Written by Ally Pilgrim

Another Busy Race Day at the Old Bezanson Townsite

The 8th Annual Bezanson Bog Cross Country Running Race was held at the Old Bezanson’s Townsite on Saturday, September 16, 2017. This race is a part of the Peace Country Wolves Cross Country Running Series, a series of local cross country races that occurs every fall in our region.

GPRC Wolves cross country runner and Bezanson’s own Anna Vandergiessen volunteers as a ‘rabbit’ leading the junior and senior elementary groups around the race course. Photo courtesy of Rick Scott.

“The Wolves X-Country running series is a group of informal, low key cross–country running races. The races and one relay are being held over a ten-week period beginning August. The Series has been set up to develop the sport of cross-country running in the Peace Country. The aim of the series is to encourage participation from athletes of all ages and ability levels.”

Excerpt from

This year’s race at the Old Bezanson Townsite saw 151 runners from all ages groups tackle the trails while enjoying the spectacular fall colours of the beautiful Smoky River Valley. Runners came from across the County of Grande Prairie and also from places like Peace River, Donnelly and Dawson Creek. The Bezanson School team had 27 runners in this year’s event and Coach (and Assistant Race Director) Chris Vandergiessen could not be more proud. 2017 age group winners at this year’s Bog include local runner Margaret Friesen who captured first place in the Master’s Women 5km race in a time of 28:23. Full race results are available at Peace Country Wolves Athletics Club .

The increase in interest over the past few years in this race is in part due to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who help out on race day. “We cannot always count on the weather to cooperate with our race day plans, but we can bring together a great group of volunteers that are dedicated to keeping the runner’s safe and making the day a lot of fun”, says Carolyn Goetjen-Pilgrim, Race Director for the 2012-2017 Bezanson Bog. “This race brings runners and spectators from across the region in to our community and in to our historic park. Not only are we showcasing our community and history, but we are making sure they are safe and that they leave happy.”

The Glenmary Saints Cross Country team from Peace River, Alberta poses for a team picture in front of the Historic Timeline of the Bezanson Townsite. Photo Courtesy of Jordan Loughlin

Both racers and their families show up on race day and it makes for a lot of visitors to the park. The views of the Smoky River Valley never disappoint and most runners thoroughly enjoy running along the top of the river valley. This event is also part of the Wolves Series and so it is not unusual to see the GPRC cross country athlete’s participate, as well as young up and coming college runners. The support of the GPRC college team and their volunteers also helps make the day run smoothly.

GPRC Wolves Alumnus Hayden Hollowell keeps pace with some younger members of the Peace Country Wolves cross country team. Hollowell, originally from Hythe, Alberta is a past volunteer of the Bog. Photo Courtesy of Rick Scott.

“Event’s like these do not happen without the support of our volunteers and as organizers we would just like to say Thank You to all those who help out on race day,” says Goetjen-Pilgrim, “we often enlist the help of spectators, coaches and fans and we are very grateful for everyone who steps up to lend a hand, even if it is just cheering our racers on.” Organizers also would like to thank Lighthouse Mechanical, Vector Communications, Lefty’s Café, Bezanson 4H Multi-Club, Bezanson Agricultural Society, the Old Bezanson Townsite Committee, County of Grande Prairie and the Peace Country Wolves Athletic Club for their continued support of our race.

As the 8th Annual event is in the books, local runners including the Bezanson School cross country team, will be looking forward to next weekend’s race, the Steve Burgess Memorial Race, at the Wapiti Nordic Ski Trails.

By Ally Pilgrim