Lately, my social media has been full of live feeds and great results from our local girls’ volleyball teams… and I have been loving every minute of it! From the amazing Summer Olympic women’s soccer’s athleticism and coverage last year, to the continuation of some of the best hockey I’ve ever seen at the Winter Olympics performed by women this winter, to a growth and focus on girls’ volleyball in Fernie… what a joy, and something I hope has become the new norm.
I had to ask one of the parents sharing posts, what is going on? When did this begin and who has been involved? The resounding recommendation was to speak to Andrea Reed.
Andrea grew up in Sparwood, (originally Andrea Podrasky) and is grateful for the experience.
“It was just so comfortable, my Dad was born in the Michel Hotel and grew up here, too. We just knew everybody, and our whole family lived here too,” she shares with me. “I did move after graduation, but as they say those who call the valley home always come back. When I did, I never left.”
Andrea actually went to school to become a hair stylist and worked at Blue Lime when she returned. “But it was then that I realized I wanted to work with children and youth,” she says. She decided to complete the Early Childhood Education Program, and began babysitting and nannying before accepting a temporary position with Teck Coal. “I was still trying to figure it all out, and while there realized working with children and youth was still important to me so I completed a diploma in Child and Family Studies and started working with SD5 as an Educational Assistant.”
When Andrea and her soon-to-be husband moved to Fernie, she began working at Little Me alongside completing her Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Studies. Luckily it was an online program as she also got married and became a mom to her daughter Ashley during this time. After her mat leave, Andrea worked at Isabella Dicken for a couple of years and then had an opportunity to work with ?Aqam running child and youth programming.
“But then COVID happened, and we couldn’t run the programming as people couldn’t interact. I stayed on as a Family Support Worker, and it was a very positive experience where I created great connections with people, learned a lot about their culture, and had the opportunity work with nurses and healthcare aids.”
It was at ?Aqam that Andrea met Kim Bauer, who is the Executive Director at the Elkford Women’s Taskforce. Obviously impressed with Andrea’s abilities and experience, Kim offered her the opportunity to be the Program Coordinator and Counsellor for the Elk Valley PEACE program. This free program supports the emotional and psychological needs of children and youth witnessing violence and raises community awareness and is available to kids ages 3-18 residing in the Elk Valley.
Currently, while continuing in this position, Andrea is working towards her Masters in Counselling Psychology.
“Part of the PEACE program is the Violence is Preventable program. I go to classrooms in the Valley and present to K to 12, teaching self-esteem building, emotional expression, healthy relationships, and violence against women. I love it. When I first started working with children and youth, I never thought I would be where I am – the anti-violence sector wasn’t on my radar and now I can’t see how it couldn’t be,” Andrea shares with me.
What is interesting is how this all overlaps with her passion for volleyball.
Andrea has been playing volleyball since grade four, and when she was growing up there were more schools in each community which meant there was more opportunity to play at a younger age. When she was in high school, she started helping the coaches in the elementary schools with their programs.
“Then as I got older and was in the Junior and Senior programs, I coached the Bantom teams,” she tells me, having pretty much coached ever since. “I have two stepdaughters, my youngest was playing at Isabella Dicken and she asked me to coach. I followed her team until they graduated and also started running development camps and sessions. There wasn’t a Fernie Volleyball Club yet, so kids were not getting the opportunity to develop before Grade 6.”
Andrea has been working with the Fernie Volleyball Club U18 team, girls who she ran camps for since Grade 5. “So, I’ve been with them for eight years. It’s crazy and sad because we only have one tournament left and then they graduate!” At the time of our meeting, they had just won the Alberta Provincial Finals, and were heading to the Nationals in Edmonton. “It’s a big event, called Super Nationals where teams from around the country come to compete,” Andrea says.
Andrea is grateful for the opportunity to offer a safe place for young people to engage in an activity.
“By safe I mean the encouragement between one another, with coaches, a place to learn, to share the love of this sport and how fun it can be, and how we are a family. We spend six hours training
a week plus tournaments (which can be up to 20 hours). It is such a great support system, where they develop friendships and connections. Girls from the Crownest Pass, Elkford, South Country, and Fernie in Grades 11 and 12 have come together to play on this team and they’ve made connections with girls who they may never have met if not for the sport.”
Andrea plans to continue to work hard to support youth in the Elk Valley through both of these roles and is happy where she is at.
“I’m so fulfilled. The parental support with the team is insane, I’ve never seen such a fantastic group of parents. And I love the PEACE program and the work I’m doing with them.”
Thank you, Andrea. And congratulations to the U18 team! We are impressed.
For more on the Elk Valley PEACE Program, visit ewtfs.ca. For information on the Fernie Volleyball Club visit fernievolleyball.com.
1. When did you first arrive in Elk Valley and what brought you here?
I was born in the Sparwood Hospital!
2. Who did you first meet?
My wonderful parents, Ricci and Glenda Podrasky.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of the Elk Valley?
It has always been home and comfortable. The place that I want to stay.
4. What keeps you here?
The life I have created, my family, my friends and just being really proud of what I have worked for. While I could do the same things in a different community, I am proud to give back to the community that gave so much to me.
5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
Binge watching a tv series with my husband.
6. What time of the year do you love most and why?
I love the summer, I have never been one for winter, which is weird since I have lived here my entire life. I love to be outside gardening, in the heat and warmth… it’s just my favourite time.
7. Where do you see or hope to see the Elk Valley in five years.
We live in a community where we are really good at developing programs for youth and working together to make sure these programs happen. In five years, I hope the partnerships continue to create an inclusive environment for youth in the valley.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
Coffee! I like to get up when it’s still super quiet in the house, make myself a coffee and sit and reflect about my upcoming day. With the job I do, self care is important and I enjoy that downtime.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
I love to be in the kitchen. I secretly bake for people!
10. Quote to live by: I tell the girls that it’s important to make mistakes, and that it’s the next move that counts. Athletes are so hard on themselves, and they need to know mistakes are necessary for development.