2009 Community Sport Winners
Few athletes in British Columbia could have possibly garnered more hardware than Chilliwack's long-time bowling, tennis, badminton and softball coach and player Dorothy Kostrzewa.
"I had 800 trophies," the Chilliwack resident-who is probably more well-known for her 30 years in municipal politics-said. "I gave most of my trophies away though. I had about nine boxes in the garage for years."
Despite the achievements and the recognition received over the years, Kostrzewa is ever humble, and the 80-year-old continued to participate in sport up until just a few months ago when an arthritic hip forced her to give up her tennis.
Being recognized as a sport hero isn't even new to Kostrzewa who was recognized by the City of Chilliwack back in 1986. Twenty-three years ago the popular Chilliwack legend was recognized for, among other things: from 1950 to 1961 she bowled on six western Canadian championships; from 1951 to 1975 she played and coached senior ladies softball; 1955 to 1976 she coached and taught tennis to both juniors and seniors; from 1950 to 1984 she coordinated recreational badminton for adults; from 1965 to 1975 she coached junior girls softball; from 1967 to 1973 she taught badminton at the YMCA/YWCA; from 1979 to 1985 she coordinated tennis tournaments; and the list goes on and on and on and on.
"I had a busy schedule," she said, with typical understatement.
Kostrzewa was involved in sport most of her life, first encouraged at school by D.H.H. Lowther, the principal of Robertson elementary back in the 1930s. She was given further encouragement from others including the legendary, and still alive at the age of 102, G.W. Graham back when she was in high school.
Kostrzewa also remembers back to when games many today take for granted were invented. She grew up playing fastpitch softball, but now that game's popularity has waned while recreational leagues of slo-pitch and two-pitch flourish. She remembers how that originated as men got together to play but didn't play fastball because their wives wanted to come out and get involved in the games.
"So they invented this two-pitch and slo-pitch in the '70s," she said.
For all Kostrzewa's athletic abilities and interests, which she also passed down to her two children who are quite athletic, she says that she can't swim.
"Everybody laughs at that," she said. "I've done everything; skiing, snowboarding and all that but I never never learned to swim."
Many years ago she coached her daughter's ball team, a group of girls that ranged from eight to 18, and they stayed together over the years and since then got together with the Cutie Cats every other year or so.
"Now, they are grandmothers," she said.
As for why her devotion to sport for herself and her kids, health may not have been the intention, but it was the result.
"I'm 80 years old now and I do think that being as active as I was, that is why I'm so healthy today," she said.
He calls them like he sees them, and after 34 years, few people have seen more action behind the plate than umpire Bob Cochrane.
Cochrane's love of the sport started with family scrub games at his grandparent's farm.
"Aunts, uncles, kids and neighbours all played," he says.
It was as a 12-year-old boy that Cochrane got his first request to umpire, and, from none other than fellow Sport Hero Award winner Dorothy Kostrzewa.
"She asked me to umpire an adult game,' he recalls. "You can't say no to her."
Cochrane didn't return to officiating until in his early 20s when he played in a league that required teams to provide umpires.
"I was always the one to do it,' he says. "But hey, it's the best seat in the house and 34 years later I'm still at it."
Cochrane played fastpitch up until the age of 38 and slo-pitch and two-pitch until he was 50. But, umpiring has always been his passion and when time commitments became an issue, playing the game took a back seat. It's not hard to understand considering Cochrane schedules 1,200 to 1,500 games each season in adult fastball, orthodox and slo-pitch.
He umpires two nights a week in Abbotsford and, as he says, "it gets pretty intense."
As for highlights, Cochrane has plenty. He has umpired seven provincial championships for slo-pitch and four national championships as umpire-in-chief. He has traveled extensively and is always in great demand for tournaments.
While Cochrane enjoys the game, he says it takes a special kind of person to wear the mask.
"You have to be good at what you do," he says. "If you can't be good, you have to guess right a lot of the time."
And, like most things in life, it's how you treat people that makes or breaks you.
"You have to be official, but not officious," he says. "You're dealing with some pretty big egos at higher levels. You have to show that you're confident."
Along the way Cochrane credits mentors Dennis Freimark, Doug Hadley and Pat Dooley for having a positive influence on his development.
"I took the best of what they had to offer," he says.
Cochrane also credits his wife Coleen, and children Sara and Jayme, for allowing him to pursue his passion.
"My family has been extremely supportive."
And to prove that he doesn't take winters off, Cochrane spent 30 years on the executive of the local curling club at various times being the president, vice-president and running the junior curling program.
Football is a sport that needs many people on the field, but it's just as important to have some key figures on the sidelines.
And one of those who has played a key role for football in Chilliwack for decades has been retired educator Jack Covey, who has coached at various levels as well as teaching at Sardis secondary, Chilliwack secondary and A.R. Rundle. In fact, many of those who've played under him have continued on the tradition. For example, in the 1960s, while teaching at CSSS, he was head coach for players like Jim Sache, Dave Hayens and Keith Currie
"These three guys started the minor football program in Chilliwack," he says.
The high school program continued on until the early 1970s when other regional schools started cancelling their football programs because of issues such as transportation.
"After that, I didn't have too much to do with football," he says.
The 1960s for him were really his heyday as a coach at Chilliwack. This was when his team won three Fraser Valley championships.
We had some really great kids," he says. "We just had an excellent program."
One of the things that helped Covey from the outset was his connections. For one thing, he knew the late B.C. Lions president and CEO Bob Ackles in his early days with minor
football, and Ackles played a role in getting some equipment for the kids in the late 1950s.
"I talked to Bobby Ackles," he says. "This equipment was offered up and we started our program."
As a kid, Covey played football for the Hilltoppers in Saskatoon and also on the Hilltoppers' basketball team, with whom he won a provincial championship in 1950.
"After that I came out here and went into physical education," he says.
He knew the Chilliwack area well and worked as a lifeguard at Cultus Lake for four summers before starting at the high school in Chilliwack in 1955. He then moved the following year to Sardis, which was then a junior high.
"I started the whole athletic program," he said. "You name it, I've coached it."
His rŽsumŽ includes soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and field, but he always liked the fact football required so many different types of athletes to fill out the many roster positions. He insists coaching is a part of the education system he has always loved.
"When you coach, you're closer to the students than you are in any other class," he says.
It's been a while since Covey has been at the chalkboard, but he did get involved with football once again in recent years, this time at the junior level when Keith Currie asked him to sit on the B.C. Football Conference board. He decided to step forward and served as the vice-president for a few years and even president.
"It's nice to be part of it," he said.
When Tony Holding heard he was nominated for a Community Sport Hero Award, his thoughts went to a past recipient and the affect he had on a young Robertson Annex student.
"I remembered Victor Wells pulling me aside during school and saying I should play badminton," says Holding. "That had a big affect on me and I did play the sport for a number of years."
Holding knows only too well the affect a good coach can have on a young athlete. He's a firm believer in sport and the way it can shape a young person's life.
"The friendships and life skills you get from sports are invaluable," he says. "What every player should get out of sports is the life skills."
There's no mistaking Holding's passion for sports. It started at any early age while growing up in Castlegar. Growing up "relatively poor," Holding says sports consisted of baseball and road hockey.
"A lot more people played baseball back then," he says.
On the baseball field, the pitcher's mound was where you would find Holding. Under the tutelage of coaches such as Rob Jardine, Denis Anderson and Gerry Kellington, Holding found much success throughout his playing days.
"Those coaches gave me many memories," he says. "They taught us to play ball hard. We made many provincials and played at a high level of baseball."
Holding recalls the "great rivalries" between the Atchletiz and Sardis ball teams during those days.
"I can still hear the moms screaming," he says laughing.
Under the direction of coach Jim Servizi, Holding and his teammates built what is now Field "C" at Fairfield Park. And, fittingly, Fairfield Park is where Holding has spent many years coaching. Although he started coaching baseball before his son, Colin, began playing, most of coaching career has revolved around his boy.
"Coaching is for myself because I love the game," he says, explaining how he can separate his coaching duties from his parental obligation. "My son gets his own satisfaction from the game. Some coaches can't get past their own child. If you get too hung up on your own child, you can't coach the others."
Along with co-coach Glen Trojanoski, Holding is currently embarking upon another season, and possibly his last, with the Midget Triple-A Cougars.
As much as Holding is known for his commitment to local baseball, he has an equally impressive record behind the bench in minor hockey. He took coaching courses and started behind the bench at the tyke league level.
"In many ways hockey was easier (than baseball)," he says. "There's more support, the network is bigger and it's more popular."
Tony fondly recalls coaching with Jim Kraemer during the early years and having many successes.
"It's not all about the winning," he says with a wry smile. "But I hate to lose."
Holding also gives credit to his wife, Jacquie, and two daughters, Meaghen and Blaike, for supporting his love of coaching.
Given that most athletes and sports participants earn their chops and gain their interest as a child, Rick Frieson has to be one of the unlikeliest sports heroes of all.
"I grew up absolutely loving sports but not being able to play them because I grew up on a dairy farm," Frieson said. "I was the oldest on the farm so I was always needed."
Patient to a fault, Frieson waited until his 20s to indulge in a passion most of his peers would have long been doing. He then got involved with fastpitch and made a charge through the ranks that is hard to match. He started at the bottom of a massive church league and made his way up through the rec league ranks then all the way to the top of the seniors division C.
"It was a pretty high calibre of ball," he said.
The game, as he puts it, died out with his generation so the popularity just isn't there. Soccer took over in popularity and so as a father, he coached what his kids were doing.
"I have coached soccer for many years," he said. "It's the only sport that I didn't know all that well, but my kids loved it so I had to kind of learn it on the fly."
He started by coaching little kids and it was just five on the field, so he figured he'd apply hockey coaching, but he quickly learned that didn't work and had to adapt his style.
With all the coaching, Frieson is a busy guy. In fact, he was heading to a basketball practice right after the interview with the Times and then had a soccer practice later in the day. He says he probably puts in about six to eight hours a week for the teams he coaches.
"There is probably three or four days a week that you have to be there at some point in the day," he said.
So how does he do it? It helps to be self-employed. Frieson used to own a chicken farm so he just worked his schedule around that, but he sold that and now owns a blueberry farm that is only really busy in the summer so he can be flexible with his sports teams.
Coaching kids as much as Frieson does may be a great thing for the community, but he contends he probably gets more out of it than the young athletes do. He first started coaching for personal reasons: to give his kids the opportunity he never had as a child.
"You start out doing it for your own kids," he said. "Then you end up doing it for the neighbourhood kids and you get to know them and build a relationship. And then, and you've heard it a thousand times: the more you give, the more you get. I ended up loving it."
For all his contacts with the kids, he hopes he can pass on some good life lessons to go along with the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play. And he thinks, at least in some cases, that he has done this.
"One parent came to me and said, talking to their boys, 'Of all the adults that you know outside of your parents, who has had the most impact?' And one of them said it was me. That made me feel good."
Barb Kroeker knows what it's like to play field hockey at the university level, and now she hopes to continue the tradition as a coach for high school girls who can reach the same heights.
The CSS teacher started coaching the sport in 1984 while attending UBC, where she also competed.
"I actually won a couple of awards when I was a player at UBC for service to field hockey," she says.
When she finished her degree, she moved back to Chilliwack to teach and before long was coaching the sport at various levels. She coached at the B.C. Summer Games in 1988, and by the early 1990s, she was running the field hockey team at Rosedale middle before moving over to Chilliwack secondary in recent years.
In 2004, when Abbotsford hosted the B.C. Summer Games, she was approached to coach
one of two Fraser Valley teams because of her experience.
"Chilliwack was kind of like a hotbed for field hockey," she says. "We hosted a lot of tournaments."
The sport has faced some challenges over the years such as maintaining interest in the sport or a supply of volunteers, though Kroeker says the new turf field at Townsend is helping the community catch up.
"We've had great success," she says. A lot of that comes from that new turf." As a coach at the club level, she has seen the program develop from the point where there were only 14 kids playing when she started in 2004 to greater numbers these days.
"Now we get about 60, 65 kids play in the spring," she says.
The club level means kids can play field hockey more throughout the year, instead of only during the high school season.
Kroeker is not only a coach and teacher but also a mom, and she has encouraged her own kids to play multiple sports. She, herself, has played several besides field hockey, such as softball and basketball, and these days spends her time golfing and curling.
She has watched her teams succeed on the field-including a strong finish at last fall's high school provincials-and one of the things of which she is most proud is that the interest in field hockey among high school students has grown to the point where girls are seriously considering it as a sport for athletic scholarships once again. Currently, there are three, she says, who are looking at playing university level field hockey and one already has lined up a scholarship from the University of Alberta.
"I think it's exciting this year to see some of my kids looking at the university program," she says.
For Ron Sturm, being involved in sports can mean changing lives. He's happy to tell you how it did his as both a player and a coach.
As a young boy living in Sherwood Park, just outside of Edmonton, Alta., sports played a big part in growing up for Sturm, as it did his three brothers and two sisters. It was "hockey in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer."
"We were all involved in sports," says Sturm. "I remember times just catching a ball. They were fun times."
The Sturm family moved to B.C. when Ron was 12 and his love of sports grew to include volleyball and track and field. During his days at Sardis secondary, Sturm recalls how the school's reputation for dominating at cross-country and long distance events helped him to pursue his passion for athletics.
The training was hard, but Sturm recalls fondly how four-times a week training runs from Sardis Park to Cultus Lake were just part of the deal as were daily runs from the high school to the family farm in Greendale.
"It was a great way to grow up as a kid," he says. "You got to know people along your route. They'd call out, 'there's the runner' and they'd offer you rides home."
Sports continued to play a major role in Sturm's life during his university days and spilled over into his young adult life. He was a player/manager and secretary-treasurer with Men's Fellowship Ball in Chilliwack, at a time when the league sported 36 teams.
"Jon Frede was one of the best pitchers I ever saw," says Sturm. "Bill Emery was a great player. Baseball has been a passion in my life since I was seven years old."
And so was football. In fact, for years Sturm and his friends gathered to play in the annual "Toilet Bowl" on a frozen local field.
"I even have a picture of us beside a toilet bowl," he says with a hearty chuckle.
Together with wife Rhonda, Sturm has four children: Stephanie, Daniel, Rebecca and Michael. The sporting apple didn't fall far from the tree, either. All of his children are involved in sports and Sturm has continued his love of athletics by volunteering his time and expertise as a coach for the past 20 years. As well, he has sat on the executive for both Chilliwack Minor Baseball and the Valley Huskers football organization.
If you ask Sturm what sports has meant to him, two things jump to the fore: giving back and forging relationships.
"I feel like I'm contributing back," he says. "Sports are one of those critical issues that our community should support. It builds good foundations for the future."
And along the way, he's built some fabulous friendships.
"It's incredibly rewarding and addictive," he says. "It's helped me make a lot of good friends. Sports didn't hurt me any."
Thankfully for our community, Sturm doesn't plan on lessening his commitment any time soon.
"I will continue to coach as long as God gives me the ability to do so."
Terry Bodman's sporting life began humbly enough as a young boy in the small town of Princeton.
"I began my fantastic skiing career at the Amber Ski Club," he says with a chuckle. "It cost 25 cents a season . . . and that included transportation to the ski hill and back to town."
And like a good downhiller, Bodman's involvement in athletics just kept picking up speed.
He moved to Chilliwack in 1947 and played soccer, baseball, basketball and lacrosse.
"I didn't play hockey because it was 'skate in '48,' " he says recalling the theme surrounding the building of Chilliwack's first arena. "But that didn't happen until '58."
Although Bodman continued to play sports, he also discovered a passion for officiating at an early age.
"I used to play basketball, but I quit growing in high school," says Bodman of the vertical challenge that led him to a career in officiating.
Among Bodman's proudest memories are officiating at three high-level curling events: the B.C. men's and women's finals and the Canadian mixed finals.
Not content just to officiate, Bodman also coached senior men's fastball and minor hockey for many years. He twice chaired the massive peewee hockey jamboree, something his son, Kevin, also got involved in. While he never coached Kevin's sports teams or daughter Alison, who was a figure skater, he did log a lot of miles driving them to games and practices.
"Sometimes work got in the way of my other activities," says Bodman, who retired as the assistant superintendent of School District No. 33 in 1995.
During one span in his sporting career, Bodman even did colour commentary for CHWK radio at the original Chilliwack Bruins B.C. Junior A Tier 2 hockey games.
Many will remember Bodman's recent contributions to local sports. He chaired the B.C. Senior Games held in Chilliwack in 2003, co-chaired the Continental Cup of Curling in 2006 and chaired the Spirit of Chilliwack committee up until recently.
There's not much Bodman hasn't done in the local sporting community and he's happy to have spent his time helping out.
"I got to give back to the community that gave so much to me," he says. "Communities depend on volunteers and I'm amazed at how many volunteers we have here. Chilliwack just comes forward, the phone just starts to ring."
And while he is starting to pull back his commitment level, Bodman remains active in the local sporting scene.
"I make my feeble attempts at golf, and I still curl and officiate curling," he says.
When you don't find him pursuing those two sports, Bodman can be found tying flies and tossing a line into local rivers, angling for the big one.