Tigers feature family dynamic this season

- September 25, 2023

The men's soccer team features two sets of brothers this year.
The men's soccer team features two sets of brothers this year.

It’s a family affair on the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s soccer team this season. With sons of former Tigers and two pairs of brothers, Dal looks to have a family-like connection on the field.

Sam Ellis is joining older brother Jack Ellis this season. The first pair of brothers on the team, hailing from Liverpool, England, are following in their parent’s footsteps. The Ellis brothers’ mother, Carla Perry, won a national championship with Dal in 1994 with the women’s team, and their father, Mark Ellis, accomplished the same feat in 1995 with the men’s team.

Good parental pressure

Jack says he feels the pressure of his parents being national champions.

“Walking out of the changing room and seeing my dad's name on the wall and seeing photos of him in the team room fills me with a lot of ambition,” says the third-year midfielder.

Seeing his father’s name in the team room makes younger brother Sam proud and motivates him to make a name for himself.

“You want to carry on the whole Ellis legacy; it motivates you,” says the first-year midfielder.

As brothers growing up, it was not always fun and games when kicking the ball around with one another.

“It would end in tears countless times,” says Jack.

However, this competitive relationship has helped shape Jack as a competitor.

“When I see him with the ball, I’ll tackle him a little harder,” says the commerce major, laughing.

Sam also reflected on training with his brother growing up.

“We're both adults now, and Jack knows that, and I know that,” says the arts major. “Training is training, and outside of football, we are brothers and even within football, we will always be brothers no matter what. As hard as we go in training, we make up for it off the pitch.”

The competitiveness was shaped by having two competitive parents. The family would play soccer games in the backyard, with Jack playing on his mother’s team and Sam on his father’s.

“If you looked at it from the outside, you'd be like, this is just crazy,” says Jack. “I learned so much from it. It makes you so competitive, and it makes you want to win so badly.”

In previous years, while Jack played for Dal, Sam and his parents would watch from home and call Jack after to discuss the game. Now that Sam has joined his brother, Jack, his parents and friends will watch the pair play from home.

“It’s really nice knowing they’re cheering me on,” says Sam.

Jack was a key influence on Sam to join the Tigers.

“He would tell me you've got to come to Dal, and some of his friends and teammates would tell me, ‘I hope you come to Dal next year,’ which is really nice,” says Sam. “He always wanted me to come to Dal. I have a special place in my heart for Dal.”

Playing with one another growing up could mean a brotherly connection for the Ellis brothers on the pitch. The two know how one another likes to play.

“In the Liverpool leagues, it's not the friendliest of games all the time,” says Sam. “We both know what football means to each other. We both know we go out there and give it our all when we play. We go to battle; it's a war.”

Their mother is from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and having had both of their parents play for Dal provides Jack and Sam with friends and former teammates of their parents. The two have reliable family friends in the Halifax area.

“There's a sense of community and family around here. It's just a really good place to be,” says Jack.

Sam’s been offered hospitality from family friends, such as proposing to cook him meals. He moved to Halifax on his birthday, and before moving to Risley Hall, he stayed with his parent’s former teammates, Trevor and Kelly Chisholm.

“They're so helpful, and they're so kind, and I really do enjoy spending time with them; it's made the transition a lot easier,” says Sam. “It’s helped with not being as homesick with my brother, family friends and family here.”

While Jack will be there for his younger brother, he emphasizes the importance of being hands-off and letting Sam experience university.

“I'm always there for him if he needs me; he can come straight to me, and if he needs an arm around the shoulder, I'm there for him,” says Jack.

Having his brother join the Tigers gives Jack a sense of home, whether it is discussing Everton Football Club or what friends are up to back home.

“It's so hard living away from home; you miss it so much. Having my brother here gives me that sense of home and home away from home,” says Jack.

Brothers from another mother

Ben Thompson, a first-year striker, has a long history with the Ellis brothers. When he was 18 months old, Thompson’s parents brought him to England to visit Perry, Mark and the Ellis brothers. They would connect again over the years. The family connections have come full circle, with Thompson and Sam joining the team.

“I took Ben under my wing a little bit, too, with a bit of tough love as well because you care a lot, you care a lot about these lads,” says Jack.

Thompson’s mother, Andrea Foreman, played with Perry on the 1994 team as a walk-on, winning a national championship in her first season.

Thompson, from Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, grew up playing with members of the Tigers team as 12 other players on the team grew up in the Halifax area. Being familiar with team members and having family connections has made a huge difference for the first year adjusting to university.

“Having family connections to people coming into the school year is very helpful and makes for a comfortable environment,” says the science major.

Thompson touched on how special it is to play for the same school his mother played for. When Thompson scored in a preseason game, he said his mother was a little embarrassed the commentator had mentioned her name.

“The commentator was talking about how I’m a second-generation Dalhousie soccer player,” says Thompson. “She enjoyed it, and she thought it was really funny. She would never have thought she'd be mentioned because I’m playing for the same school she played for.”

Thompson is excited to make long-lasting friendships with players on the team like his mother did. He said the rookies already feel close to one another as they spend much time together daily.

Classmates, teammates, brothers

The Ellis’ are not the lone pair of brothers on the team this season, with first-year Emmett Workman joining third-year Riley Workman. The two engineering majors from Halifax, Nova Scotia, are slightly different. Older brother Riley is a midfielder. Emmett, on the other hand, is a keeper.

Being two years apart in age, the pair never got to play with one another up until now.

“I was very excited when he made his final decision and committed to the team. It’s also a nice moment for my parents as well. I'd say they seem to be very proud of us,” says Riley.

Emmett, already a Dalhousie PepsiCo Athlete of the Week after his first start on September 10, said his brother played a role in recruiting him to Dal.

“He told me how great of a program it was, and I won’t lie, during the early stages, he swayed me a little bit,” says the first-year keeper. “When head coach Alan Jazic talked to me about playing for Dal, that's when I really knew I wanted to come here.”

Finding a keeper to practice on can be challenging for many soccer players growing up. For Riley, a keeper to practice against was never a problem.

“When you go to the field with all your friends, you usually have to do nose goes or play another game to decide who plays in net. With him, it was always pretty straightforward,” says Riley.

Jack is one of Riley’s closest friends, and with their younger brothers joining the team, it is a surreal moment for them.

“I think for both of us, seeing our younger brothers come in and looking at them together, it's almost a blur. It’s like looking back at us two years ago,” says Riley. “It's a little weird because it feels like we came to Dal just yesterday. Hopefully, they can be good friends like Jack and I. If they hate each other, it'd be a little awkward.”

Thankfully for Jack and Riley, Sam and Emmett have already connected.

“Sam and I are quite good friends. We've kicked it off right away,” says Emmett.

While Riley wants to allow Emmett to have the full university experience, he is happy he’s been able to give his younger brother some pointers.

“It's very stressful those first few weeks as a university student, and it's a huge adjustment from high school. It’s about telling him what he should and shouldn't worry about and how to stay on top of his schoolwork because it's a busy time those first few months of the season,” says Riley. “On the field, I tell him the core principles: always make a practice when you can and work hard. I don't have too much to comment on his goalkeeping as I am quite atrocious at that myself.”

Riley has helped Emmett settle in on and off the pitch.

“He's always been someone I looked up to and a great soccer player, and I can take a lot from him,” says Emmett. “I feel so comfortable around everyone here, and having my brother here, I know someone will be there for me. I know he'll be there. I know all the guys on the team will be there for me.”


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