2012 Community Sport Winners
Moe Caza has made plenty of drop shots over the years, but he’s never dropped the ball as treasurer of the Chilliwack Seniors Tennis Club.
For 10 years, Moe has held the purse strings for the tennis club. He also served for seven years as the club’s scheduler. Both roles come with plenty of responsibility and little glory.
But for Moe, knowing the job is getting done properly is reward enough.
“Somebody’s got to do it,” the retired air force captain says with a smile. “I’m honest and I know for sure it’s going to be run that way. You’ve always got to be careful when money’s involved.
“I don’t think anybody would want to replace me,” he says with a laugh. “That’s just the way it is.”
Moe, 79, grew up in Ontario bowling in the winter and playing third-base on the local ball team in the summer.
He drifted towards racquet sports and began playing tennis during his and his wife’s winter trips to Palm Springs.
Moe subsequently learned about the seniors tennis club and has been playing doubles three times a week at the Landing Sports Centre ever since.
Moe says the doubles game is good for seniors and it can require plenty of skill to score points.
“You cover the court and it’s hard to get it by some of these old guys,” he said. “It’s a more precise game.”
After most games, a half-dozen players get together for coffee.
“You have a good bunch of guys,” says Moe. “It’s the camaraderie as well. It’s nice.”
But there is a significant competitive aspect, and opponents aren’t shy about exploiting the fact that Moe is currently awaiting a new hip.
“They know you don’t take off as quickly so they drop it on you, the bums,” he says, again laughing. “It’s kind of dirty pool! But that’s the game. They don’t get away with it too many times.”
Moe downplays his volunteerism for the club, although he notes that he’s always searching for good deals on tennis balls and not above pulling strings with friends to cut costs for the club’s members.
For a time members took turns scheduling games, but that, members learned, was a dicey proposition.
The result was chaos.
Now, although Moe has handed the scheduler’s book off to another member, he says “we have continuity with the same guy doing it.”
Club president Tony de Wit, who nominated Moe as a sport hero, says his treasurer’s work is important to keep the club going.
“He is just very involved,” says de Wit. “He’s willing to do more than his share in order to make our club operate.”
But Moe does it just to keep the club going.
“He’s selfless, doesn’t ask for anything in return. He’s just happy to contribute,” says de Wit.
And with Moe keeping the financial side of the club in order, the club has thrived.
“The odd person has fallen off,” he says, “but we seem to always have new people coming up. It works out well. I don’t know where they come from.”
Meanwhile, the players stick together, in health and in sickness.
“You’ve always got friends,” he says.
In the heat of competition, the coolest heads don’t always prevail, and officials are often the first to bear the brunt of people’s frustration.
Not everyone is cut out for the job like Darshan Chand.
“He doesn’t get all riled up,” said parent Trish Martin, who nominated the retired teacher as a Community Sports Hero. “I mean, I’ve seen parents go a little nutty and yell and scream, but he keeps his cool. I’ve always looked up to him because he’s an awesome role model for any children and for us adults.”
Martin first met Darshan years ago when he was teaching at East Chilliwack elementary and coaching her daughter on the school’s soccer team.
He has since retired, but Martin still sees him around the school district today, organizing teams, coaching kids and reffing games.
“Darshan is one of those people you just simply wish there were more of,” she said.
As a former P.E. and math teacher, Darshan said he has always appreciated the rapport he could build through athletics.
“I guess that was my in with kids,” he said. “I really enjoyed physical education. Some of the strong academic kids need that outlet because they don’t always go for it, and the ones who are sometimes your problem kids need an out as well. This is their way of getting some success.”
Darshan took charge of the sports at each of the elementary schools he taught at and even organized the Chilliwack school district’s annual track meet for 10 years.
On a community level, Darshan’s work has included acting as president of the Chilliwack-Cultus Lake Swim Club from 2004-2008.
He has also coached community rep soccer for eight years.
Despite that already impressive resume, much of Darshan’s sports volunteering has actually centred around officiating.
Until last year, he was in charge of umpires for the Chilliwack Softball Association, organizing officiating schedules and helping umpires get proper certification and training.
Since last year, he’s come on board to do the same thing for the Chilliwack Football Club’s soccer referees.
Along with organizing certification clinics, Darshan spends part of every weekend visiting fields around town, checking up on refs and giving them tips.
As the level of soccer in Chilliwack rises ever higher, he said it’s important for refereeing to keep pace.
With proper training and feedback, officials are more confident about their role and calls.
And if coaches give them any guff, Darshan has their backs.
“I let coaches know that if they have any problems with the officials, they talk to me. If they go after my officials, I talk to them.”
Between organizing, coaching and refereeing, Darshan said his five years of retirement have been harder than teaching.
For him, though, the kids are still worth it.
“It’s been very satisfying watching the kids grow in the role of either a player or an official and get better and feel like they’re better,” he said.
Ron Funk’s sporting life has followed a somewhat natural progression. An outstanding player in his youth, Ron turned to coaching when his son was ready to enter sports and then officiating when his son became a man.
And although his spare time is often filled with countless umpiring and refereeing jobs, for Ron, that’s just the way it goes.
“I think I should be doing it,” he says with conviction.
A softball and fastpitch player in his youth, Ron proudly recalls batting over .400 for most of his adult playing days. The Chilliwack-born-and-raised athlete also enjoyed his time on the soccer pitch as well as at the local rink playing hockey.
When son Jesse started playing soccer, it was also the start of Ron roaming the sidelines as coach. As Jesse progressed up the ranks, so too did Ron, shadowing his boy until his U-18 season.
The move to officiating seemed natural for Ron. His even temperament and sense of humour served him well to defuse potentially volatile situations with fans and parents alike. Although there have been many controversial calls, Ron says taking the “heat” is just part of the job.
“You have to stand by your call,” he says.
And when Ron takes a stand, well, he’s not easily swayed. A member of the Broadway and Mennonite Brethren Church, Ron says his commitment to officiating comes first, even if that means missing the odd Sunday service.
“The games always come first,” he says. “I do as many as I can.”
Helping him with his heavy officiating workload is wife Margaret.
“She goes online and makes sure I get all the games I want.”
Evenings and weekends spent in all sorts of weather have never deterred Ron from volunteering his time for both the Chilliwack Football Club and Chilliwack Minor Baseball. He “unselfishly dedicates hours of his time to young people” and “rarely says no to a need that arises,” says his Community Sport Heroes nominator Brad Hagkull.
“Although I know he earns an income from being an official, I know firsthand that he does not spend a dollar on himself,” says Hagkull. “He channels it back into prizes, scholarships and gifts for the youth he serves.”
When asked how long he plans to officiate youth sports, Ron points out the longevity of fellow 2010 Community Sport Hero Gary Wagner.
“He’s almost 70 and he’s still umpiring, so why shouldn’t I?” Ron answers without hesitation. “It’s what I like to do.”
And the Chilliwack sporting community would be all the better for it.
“His commitment to young people is second to none,” says Hagkull. “He has been serving the sports needs of young people in Chilliwack for decades and continues to model his belief in the next generation of athletes.”
Alan Nicol might be the best squash player in Chilliwack.
But if he isn’t, he’s probably coached, inspired or at least encouraged whomever is.
At 64 years young, Alan is incredibly fit and can likely run circles around many player half his age.
And it’s players half his age and younger whom he is working hard to get into the fast-paced racquet sport.
When it come to the promotion of the sport of squash in the eastern Fraser Valley, no one has done more over the last three decades than Alan.
“Al has encouraged young players to take up the sport,” said the group of Chilliwack players who nominated Nicol.
“Al’s love of the sport is obvious and he has been a source of inspiration and guidance for all levels of players.”
Alan came to the game relatively late in life. When he arrived in Chilliwack 34 years ago, he had never picked up a racquet. The only courts were on CFB Chilliwack, still the location where he and the Cheam Squash League play games, at the Cheam Centre.
“Squash back then wasn’t really played,” he said. “It’s a funny sport, it comes and goes in popularity. Olympic exposure would be good.”
While ping-pong is an Olympic sport, somehow squash has been left out despite worldwide participation.
“Egypt has some of the best players in the world, and France too,” he said. “Of course the Pakistanis. The Australians have dropped off, but the English are back.”
In the 1970s, Alan helped form the Fraser Valley Squash League, which ran for about 25 years. He said the calibre of squash was so high that the Chilliwack team almost never lost. Then in the 1990s they decided to have a crack at the Vancouver league. After four years, and despite some insults from city teams who called the Chilliwack guys hicks and farmers, they won the Vancouver first division in 1997.
“The racquet talks,” he said.
He’s now team captain of the Cheam Squash League, in which there are four teams and approximately 30 players.
He loves to encourage those rising up skill levels in the sport and loves the camaraderie of the team.
But once on the court, squash is truly an individual game.
“It’s a sport where you can get coached and have a team cheering, but when you close the door on the court, you have to fight for yourself,” he said.
In recent years, Alan has mentored some young men whose skill level has risen. And it’s those guys he hopes will bring the sport to the next generation.
“That’s what we need to keep the whole thing going,” he said.
“I’m hoping the guys with young families, down the road, they’ll bring their kids over and then there will be a junior program.”
As for Alan’s participation in squash, as long as his knees and back hold out, he won’t stop.
“I’ll play as long as I can,” he said.
Manfred Preuss just loves dragon boating. But be careful: spend much time with him and you’ll likely end up in a boat, gripping a paddle and gasping for air.
Eleven years ago, dragon boating in the Fraser Valley consisted of a group of women practising strokes with brooms in a church basement.
Today, the Fraser Valley Dragon Boat Club (FVDBC) boasts seven different teams , each with around 20 paddlers. The club hosts an annual regatta at Harrison Lake, owns three of its own boats and sends teams to competitions in other countries.
Behind much of it has been Manfred, whose introduction to the sport came from his wife, Kathy, one of the members of that original broom-paddling team.
Watching his wife take part in her first regatta in 2001, Manfred knew immediately that he wanted to get in a boat and grab a paddle.
“I was watching on the sideline and I was just enthralled,” he says. “I realized this is a technical sport and it’s all about doing your best and seeing if you can win.”
Not that his first time in a dragon boat was especially comfortable.
“The first time I went out,” Manfred remembers, “I lasted 15 seconds and I was looking for air.”
But the technical aspects of the sport, and the adrenaline rush that comes with a good run, hooked him. He likens the feeling of a good race to that of hitting a grand slam in a baseball game—except in dragon boating, every one of the 20 paddlers feels as though he or she hit that home run.
In the years since his first race, Manfred helped found the FVDBC a decade ago and has served in a variety of roles at the club. In 2004, with the club’s future in doubt, he took over the presidency role and held it for three years.
“Somebody had to step up and I loved dragon boating,” he says. “I didn’t want to see it die.”
He has served as equipment manager, recruitment director, media director, regatta committee member and vice-president, his current position with the club. He also helped launch the club’s corporate challenge team-building program for local businesses. On top of it all, Manfred also captains and coaches his own team, the Crusaders.
“I love to make dragon boating grow,” he says.
The club hosted its first dragon boat festival in 2003. Manfred called that experience an “eye-opener.”
“The first thing you find out is no one’s real interested in sharing how to do this, because they’re doing this as well and it’s a business,” he says. “They don’t give you any bad advice; they just don’t give you any good advice, either.”
But the regatta has thrived, as has the club. Over the years, Manfred has introduced countless paddlers to the sport and has even developed a dragon boat-oriented exercise routine for newbies.
Above all, Manfred—a mechanic when he’s not on the water—is an evangelist for the sport.
He’s intense and competitive and when he goes to a competition, he wants to win, or at least post a solid time. But he’s also an extrovert and a people person.
“It’s an adrenaline rush and it’s communicating with people and you get to see a whole cross-section of life,” he says.
“And if you go to an event, everyone is nice!”
The best way Natalie Sache has found to explain why she agreed to take charge of Friday Nite Basketball in Chilliwack 13 years ago is that it was a “God thing.”
In other communities where the non-profit Athletes in Action (AIA) basketball program was running at the time, the city directors in charge of organizing and recruiting coaches were middle-aged men with families. Natalie was just 19.
But the league in Chilliwack needed a volunteer organizer, so after some initial hesitation, she stepped up.
“It has to have been a God thing because I have no other explanation as to why, all of a sudden, I would be like, ‘I think this person is supposed to be me.’”
Once she dove in, however, she did a standout job, according to Friday Nite Basketball’s provincial director Frank Thoutenhoofd.
“Her gift is organization, no question about it,” he said.
Thoutenhoofd, who nominated Sache as a Community Sport Hero, first met her when she was just 16.
It was 1995, Friday Nite Basketball was just getting started in town, and AIA organizers were looking for sponsorship from the Chilliwack Optimists Club.
Natalie’s parents were Optimists and they encouraged her to make a presentation about her experiences at AIA summer softball, soccer and basketball camps.
“She did such an impressive job I said, ‘This gal is a gal I want to have on my team,’” Thoutenhoofd said.
A couple years later he gave Natalie a summer job at AIA headquarters in Langley co-ordinating registrations for all eight cities running Friday Nite Basketball.
That’s when the Chilliwack commissioner’s position fell vacant.
Even at the tender age of 19, though, Natalie was no stranger to organizing sports leagues.
In Grade 12, she was the co-ordinator of her own Midget C hockey league at age 17.
One of only three girls playing minor hockey in Chilliwack at the time, she started playing goalie on a boys team at the Bantam C level.
During her second year of midget, she took over co-ordinating duties from her dad, who had stepped down that year.
She continues to pursue her love of hockey today, not on a women’s team, but as a goalie in the local old-timers men’s league.
Natalie ascribes much of her volunteerism to growing up in a community-minded family.
Both at church and in the community, she said her parents were very involved people.
It’s a tradition Natalie, now a mother of four, has carried on in her own family.
With her husband Geoff Sache, president of the Chilliwack Huskers and a director with the Chilliwack Plowing Society, she has also put in countless hours with those organizations, running concessions, organizing registrations and selling 50-50 tickets.
“I can’t think of a better person for this volunteer award,” Thoutenhoofd said.
Natalie is going into her 14th year of Friday Nite Basketball this fall.
For her, the feedback she gets about kids thriving in the fun-oriented league, is what makes it worth it to come back year after year.
“The kids are so excited to come on Friday night, and I just love feeding that information back to the coaches in the gym,” she said.
Before Ron Wedel ever picked up a glove to play competitive fastball, he took his girlfriend who played the sport to one of her practices.
He thought the coach wasn’t giving the girls enough instruction on the diamond during one drill.
“I said, ‘shouldn’t you explain why they should be doing this?’” Ron says. “He said ‘go ahead.’ So I did and he said ‘you’re in,’ and I’ve been at it ever since.”
That was 40 years ago and not only did he stick with that girlfriend by marrying her, he stuck with fastball through thick and thin.
And these days, despite his dedication to the sport and his commitment to coaching whoever still wants to play, things are pretty thin.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ron says ?there were literally dozens of fastball teams in a number of different leagues and divisions in Chilliwack.
“Fastball was basically the king sport here in town,” he says. “We didn’t have football in those days. We didn’t have hockey camps in the summertime. We didn’t have beach volleyball. We didn’t have ultimate frisbee, which is highly competitive during the summer time and has taken a lot of people.”
The incremental growth of the casual game of slo-pitch, in which husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends can play together, has also led people away from formal fastpitch leagues.
The women’s team Ron coached back then participated in a league with about a dozen teams all based in town. Now, he coaches the Valley Cats, one of two women’s teams left in Chilliwack. The team has about four locals on the team, and they play in a Surrey-based league once a week.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he says. “I spent all my life trying to keep this league going.”
Over those 40 years Ron has devoted himself to the sport. He has been a player, a coach, an umpire, and an administrator in the Chilliwack men’s and women’s fastball leagues.
“He is always quick to jump in and lend a hand where it is needed,” said Robert Cochrane, who nominated Ron. “Be it mentoring a young player or lining a ball diamond, no job is too trivial or beneath him. He even spent a few years running the concession at the park.”
Ron has coached a number of provincial championship-winning teams, yet remains humble about his success, according to Cochrane.
“He would be the first to say it was the team, not him,” he said.
Anyone who grows up playing organized sports can remember a coach who helped out and made a difference. When asked about this, Ron says: “I’m pretty sure I’ve had an impact on the sport in a postive way.”
He remembers one season where he coached a group of girls who had been playing for 10 years. One girl had never played at all and asked otherwise obvious questions, such as: “Does it matter how you step into the batters’ box?”
Ron said he had never thought of something like this, and the season was a learning experience as no one was afraid to ask any kind of question.
“I still remember one girl who said ‘I’ve learned more from you in three months than from my other coaches for 10 years’” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wow.’”
Doug Wilson Sr.
When it comes to outdoor rinks, Doug Wilson Sr. knows a thing or two having skated on them at both ends of the country.
Growing up in Nova Scotia, Doug spent many hours playing shinny on outdoor sheets—including some you might not think would be too safe.
“We even skated on the ocean it was so cold,” he says with a chuckle.
During the 1970s, when the Chilliwack Coliseum was the only indoor rink, Doug managed the outdoor pond in Sardis commonly known now as Twin Rinks.
“We used to call it the gravel pit,” he says. Many nights players and kids would gather to play under the headlights of his 1963 Stratochief.
Hockey has always been in the blood for Doug and it’s provided him many incredible memories. An outstanding player, Doug’s hockey skills took him all over the world playing for various teams, none more famous than the Canadian Forces’ Black Watch. In 2004, he was inducted into the Oromocto and Area Sports Wall of Fame for his time playing on the Black Watch.
“We were full-time hockey players,” says Doug of his time in the military then. “We had the Black Watch pipe band travel with us and people loved to see them as well.
A hunting accident prematurely ended Doug’s high-level hockey playing days, but fortunately for hundreds of youth led him to coaching at the age of 32.
The military brought Doug to Chilliwack in 1970 and in ‘71 he started coaching son Doug Jr. in house league hockey. As Doug Jr. progressed up the hockey ladder, so too did senior.
“It was a lot of fun,” he says of the early coaching days. “I was a good skater so I spent a lot of time on skating skills. I encouraged kids a lot. I didn’t believe in sitting kids.”
Back then, teams travelled by bus and the close proximity to one another meant teams bonded. It also meant parents grew close and relationships were formed that last to this day.
“I had some great parents,” Doug fondly recalls. “I meet them today and they still talk about those times. I’ll never forget those times.”
Doug’s coaching career spanned from Atom to Midget A for the Chil