I looked into the shiny new gymnasium floor at the yet to be named Sand Park High, in 1971. “How old do you have to be? I’m 12 years old. I’ll be 13 next year, and can I join the Leaders Corps?” I questioned John Delaney.

“What grade are you in?” he asks me in return.

“Grade Seven,” I zip back and John nods semi-approvingly. “Yahoo! I’m in the Leaders Corps! What a great start to a school year,” I think to myself as I eagerly traipse down to Miss Bell’s French class.

I was what you may call a nerdy looking chubby kid with short hair, 12 years old and eager to get down to learning at the new school with young, new teachers. Our classes were the highest education level in any of the communities at that time and the school was loaded with a fully equipped gymnasium. It had a highly polished hand laid hardwood floor, meticulously swept clean on a regular basis every time it was used. This floor became a testing ground for our physical condition and the benchmarks that were already high in 1971 for the next four years.

I emerged a nerdy looking guy with muscles and long hair.

We ran for miles, did push- ups, hand stands, chin ups, sit ups and just about every up in the world of gymnastics and sports, that four years later, turned out many finely honed young leaders. It was a sad day to leave that school, as it was the last year of Indian Affairs education management and we had to leave to go south to finish school. When we left those four good years of hard-core leadership, mental, physical and down right excellent coaching by the best that Midland, Ontario had to offer, John Delaney and Lloyd Stackhouse. Both are still outstanding athletes (albeit 200-pound athletes) and Lloyd was a marvel to see in the basketball court, and he drilled us tirelessly in the art of the layup. Lloyd was a special kind of guy and we looked at it as, that being coached by the first white guy who was ever asked to join the Harlem Globetrotters, was truly an honour.

We learned that yes, one man can play against himself in a game of badminton, that the ceiling in the gym wasn’t really that high if you gave it an extra oomph on the trampoline, that girls can be better than you in the gym, that guys from Waskaganish loved to cartwheel endlessly, that I can stand on my hands and walk around, that there are many ways to fool a batter when you’re the pitcher, that basketball isn’t just a game, it’s a sport, that a good head on your shoulders is better than that muscle in my arm, that self defense is really about not fighting, that true leaders are really good sensible people who respected others. We learned more than pure physique in the leaders corps, it molded our entire outlook in life in a positive way; yes we were people with life skills that lasted throughout our lives.

There were many of us, and we all had our own special talent. Ron could survive the hardest falls, Hugo had the innate ability to check his team mates during a rough hockey game, William could do handstands on chairs, I could do a lot of sit-ups, Elizabeth was light and could be thrown around easily, Mary looked great on the trampoline, Sally won the Tom Longboat award for outstanding athlete in the country, Patricia and Lorna were deadly in pinball, Freddie was a basketball wiz, and to top it off, many of us went on to represent Northern Quebec in the Arctic Winter games in Alaska.

But thoughout this whole period, John and Lloyd were there to guide us. Now 35 years later and the Leaders Corps in which we had so much fun, learned so much from and generally had long lasting friendships, is ending in Moose Factory. Our Leaders Corps lasted only in our memories and hearts. Congratulations to John Delaney and Lloyd Stackhouse on a triple decade of commitment and ceaseless patience in helping us learn true values and what real leaders are made of. Thanks for those good years.