Unlike a small community, Vancouver is a big city that can be unsympathetic and cold. However, there are teams of people from a multitude of organizations who work hard to give it a sense of belonging.
I recently chatted with one of those big players, BC Lions’ Andrew Peirson, who plays as an offensive lineman. Even over Zoom, he is a man of imposing stature (he really fills the frame). What became immediately obvious to me during the interview was Andrew’s deep, undying love for the sport of football. But, as it turned out, football wasn’t the first sport he got into.
“When I was growing up, I was always an athletic kid. My parents were athletic [too]. I liked sports in general [and] started off with figure skating to get good at hockey [which] I grew up playing.”
While playing hockey at rep levels, he also took time to play rugby and golf. He then became enamoured with football when he started high school.
“I loved how it was a big sport with lots of different pieces. You know, being a bigger guy, there was a spot for me. For smaller guys there was also a spot. For faster guys as well. I could play with all my friends and there wasn’t any reason why [one] couldn’t play.”
Despite the importance of sports in his life, Andrew is not just an athlete. He is also heavily involved in the BC Lions’ community outreach programs. Andrew explained that the BC Lions do extensive work within the community, leading programs such as Team Up to End Racism, and Read, Write & Roar, as well as working to end gender-based violence and promote energy conservation.
The BC Lions allow players to decide which of the programs they want to partake in and to additionally choose one they can contribute to outside the organization. Andrew shares that he has been an advocate for the Heart and Stroke Foundation ever since his father had a stroke.
And beyond running these initiatives, the athletes themselves do outreach individually.
“Just last week, we served food to the homeless population in the east end. That was separate from the Lions. [As athletes, we have] the ability to leverage sponsors that want to get us out into the community…and communicate things that we believe in.”
Andrew also finds volunteering with children at hospitals rewarding as these experiences tend to “put things into perspective” for him. He is grateful to be healthy enough to play the sport he loves.
In both 2019 and 2021, Andrew was nominated for the Tom Pate award, annually handed out only to those who have displayed outstanding sportsmanship and dedication to their teams and community. When I asked him how it felt to be nominated, Andrew said it was “really humbling.” He made it clear that he does not volunteer for the awards, but receiving the recognition makes him feel proud.
Clearly, Andrew likes to engross himself in many undertakings. When asked if he faces challenges balancing his career, community involvement, and staying healthy, his take is that you learn to manage.
“Upfront, you figure out how to balance some stuff when playing college football… Managing football, school, and your personal life is a challenge in itself… When you go to the pros, and you have a little more ‘free time,’ it is a little more manageable.”
It seems the key to balance in Andrew’s life is prioritizing what’s important to him. He has organization members who give him heads-ups of upcoming events so he can know how to arrange his schedule. Then during the football season, when he is away from his family, he has more time to focus on himself, and in his spare time, he can give back to the community.
If there is a takeaway I want readers to have from this interview, it would be to lead by example. We all have the power to make a positive change in this world, which is what Andrew Peirson’s lion-sized heart tries to instill in others. Along with Andrew, you can strive to make that long-lasting, indelible impression on those around you, even if it’s just one person.