A volunteer job turned into a dream career for Abbotsford’s Cortlin Tonn.
At the age of 14, Tonn gave up his free time to work as a stick boy for the Abbotsford Heat. Just a few years later, the 2014 MEI grad is the equipment manager for the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program.
“It’s been very exciting for me,” he said. “To actually get paid doing something you love is amazing.”
Tonn, 19, said it was those initial connections with the Heat that helped open many doors into the sports world. He began taking on more responsibilities with the Heat and even was called up to help with the parent club in Calgary.
“The sports world is very connected,” he said. “I got to know the Vancouver Canucks training staff and when they learned about the Whitecaps opportunity they helped me make that connection.”
Tonn works primarily with the Whitecaps FC residency, which helps develop young players U16 and U18. The training facility in Burnaby helps prepare players for a future in soccer and also has given Tonn the opportunity to grow as a trainer.
He typically works Monday to Friday in Burnaby, making sure equipment is maintained, locker rooms are spotless and players have everything they need.
Tonn also works games on the weekends and helps out with the Whitecaps’ first team during their home games at BC Place.
“During the game we clean up the locker room and make sure everything is spic and span,” he said. “But we’re also watching the game and paying attention to what’s needed at all times. Sometimes we need to clean blood off of a jersey or put a pinnie (vest) on a player that has subbed out. It’s really neat to be that close to that type of atmosphere.”
Tonn also works on pre-game requirements, such as preparing the numbers, names and crests on jerseys and making sure the benches and locker rooms are ready.
“We want everything to be set up professionally so that the players don’t have to worry about anything – you just want them to play the game,” he said.
He said his career highlight was the first time he stepped onto the pitch at BC Place earlier this year. Another memorable moment was when Tonn worked behind the bench for the Calgary Flames when they played the Canucks in Vancouver during last year’s pre-season.
“Seeing my parents banging on the glass right behind me in the crowd was a pretty cool moment,” he said.
Tonn said he’s working his dream job and wants to stay involved in sports for the rest of his life.
“I love going to work every morning and every day is different,” he said. “It’s a great honour to work for such an amazing organization like the Whitecaps.”