Bermudian footballer Ryan Parris was recently featured on the Acadia University website, talking about football in Bermuda and his four years in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
The midfielder, whose local team is Young Men’s Social Club, is set to graduate in the spring with a degree in business administration and a major in finance.
“I’d hope to go on to an MBA, then go back to Bermuda and get a job there,” the midfielder told reporter John DeCoste. “There are lots of openings back home in that field.”
Apart from his classes and commitments to the school’s football programme, Parris has participated in extracurricular activities with his team-mates.
“Our team has done a lot of community service activities over the years,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing whatever I can to enjoy my final year here.”
Parris, 21, came up in the Social Club programme, where he played alongside Malcolm Outerbridge, a young man who lost his life in a stabbing six years ago.
“This young man, I’ve seen his growth from the age of 13,” Kaywell Outerbridge, mother of Malcolm, told The Royal Gazette yesterday. “He and Malcolm played for Young Men’s Social Club but in different age groups. They grew together like brothers and remained that way until Malcolm’s passing.”
About 15 years after he first started playing the game, Parris is in his final year of Acadia, having played a prominent role as a midfielder and team leader for the Axemen.
“I used to play for both my school team and club team,” he explained. “School football is played in the fall and club football for the rest of the year.”
He needed to adjust to playing in July or August in Canada, where the game is played virtually all year round.
Parris always knew he wanted to continue his education and obtain a business degree. In 2011 he was part of a group of BFA National Academy youngsters to go on the association’s annual Prep School Tour. The BFA sent between ten and 18 talented teenagers to nine prep schools on the East Coast of the United States for a tour as part of the scheme that started in 2008.
Later that year, 11 Academy players, among them Ryan Hassell, Mauriq Hill, Akeyla Furbert, Quintonio Lema and Justin Donawa, enrolled in prep schools.
In October 2011, Malcolm Outerbridge was stabbed to death near his Warwick home aged 18. He had returned the previous month from a Raleigh International youth expedition to Borneo.
Parris’s path took him in another direction. “My last year in high school, I went away to boarding school in Port Hope, Ontario.” Parris recalled. “I got to experience one bad Ontario winter, which ended up being a ‘warm-up’ for here.”
Parris hoped he would be able to play varsity football and had a tryout with Algoma University, in Ontario. However, “strong family ties” to Acadia made that university his obvious choice. He e-mailed Axemen head coach Findlay MacRae, “asking if I could try out for the team”.
Parris said: “Six or seven of my family, including an uncle, his two children and a couple of other cousins, had all attended Acadia”.
He arrived in Wolfville as a freshman in 2014, but with no guarantees of being a getting into the football programme.
“I made the team my first year, I came off the bench for my first two games, but I’ve been a starter ever since,” he said.
Parris started his football career as a centre back, but at the start of high school switched to midfield, a position he has played ever since.
“I like being in the middle of things, and in control,” he said. “It’s a very busy position. At the end of the game, you know you’ve been in a game.”
The Axemen have steadily improved during Parris’s time in the team. “My first year, we were fourth or fifth, then third,” he recalls.
“Last year, we were first in the regular season, lost to Cape Breton in the AUS final and made it to nationals.”
Asked to compare Bermuda football with that at the college level in Canada, Parris said: “The biggest differences I’ve found are the speed and the physicality of the game.
“Football tends to be played at a slower pace in Bermuda, and it’s definitely not as rough a sport at home. Soccer here kind of reminds me of the English league. You need to be in a lot better shape.”
He added: “I enjoy playing a team sport, and being part of a team. You come to rely on your team-mates, and they rely on you. Playing in the AUS final last year, and making it to nationals was the highlight of my time here so far. Maybe even the highlight of my entire career.”
The Axemen started the 2017 season with two wins, a draw and one loss in their first four games.
Asked if he sees himself as a team leader in this year’s team, Parris said: “I’d like to think, at this point of my career, I’m someone my younger team-mates can look up to and maybe see as a role model. I’m not really a motivational kind of guy. I prefer to let my play speak for me.
“We still need to gel as a group. Once that happens, we could be better than last year.”