I’m a relative newcomer to Smithers. I landed here about five years ago to take the position of head coach with the Otters swim club.
I did not have much with me, not much furniture, just enough to make myself reasonably comfortable.
Job one was to find an apartment. Due to my epilepsy, driving was out so it had to be in town and relatively central. Thanks to Ali Howard, a local businesswoman and assistant coach with the swim club, that was accomplished quickly and comfortably.
In the short time I have been here, I have continually been amazed at the quality of life that is available here.
As a professional coach for around 40 years, I have tended to see various sporting communities that have all seemed to be quite similar. In a way, coaches seem to look for ownership of athletes. Those youngsters seem to try for specialization in one activity at quite a young age, in all truth, much too young.
There are a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the biggest reason would be that of habit or tradition. It’s the way we’ve always done things so why change.
There has been a lot of attempts by various sport governing groups such as Sport Canada to educate parents, participants and coaches that this is not the best long term plan but unfortunately these efforts seem to be ignored or given only cursory application.
Another issue is a bit more difficult to deal with in many communities. Access to facilities is limited by the numbers using them or by the distance that potential athletes might need to travel to participate in a favored program. Just think of learning to be a skier in Toronto.
There have been many studies that have shown the value of a multi-sport background for young athletes.
The inability to have such a background because of the high price of travel to and from facilities that offer desired programs is definitely a limitation in many communities.
What we have here in the Bulkley Valley area might not be unique but it is certainly not common. Youngsters have access to programs throughout the year that allow them to take part in high quality sport development over a broad base of activity.
Without naming names, there are high quality programs being conducted by experienced enthusiastic coaches available in many sports such as soccer, hockey, various winter sports, golf, track and field, cycling, triathlon, swimming, various martial arts and the list goes on.
The sports groups here have produced very well. I know swimming the best because it’s my full time job. We have had athletes from our small pool here go on to the National Paralympic team, scholarships in the US, medals at Indigenous Games, medals at Special Olympic national events and more.
Most kids I have the honor to coach are multi-sport athletes. Rather than give them a hard time because they are participating in additional sports, I encourage it because it helps the individual excel.
I can always tell when a child has probably not done gymnastics for example, when they attempt certain skills in the pool. The inability to properly jump or do a somersault carries over to other sports.
The area of Smithers and the other local communities offer unique opportunities to athletes of all ages. It’s population is very active over a very wide spectrum of activities.
In a way this presents those of us at the Interior News with some difficulties. With the downsizing that has happened with most small community newspapers, it has become more difficult to cover everything that is going on.
I stumbled upon working for the News by accident. There was a possible gas leak at the pool one night and while I was in the parking lot I ran into editor Chris Gareau, he mentioned that a part time position was available. Since I had spent a lot of time writing for the student paper while at university, I decided to give it a try.
I will admit that publisher Grant Harris and Chris have been very patient with my errors and encouraging in my efforts. Somehow, I’ve branched out to do arts and entertainment subjects as well.
Many people probably don’t know how large our editorial staff is. Not counting the essential part-timers like myself, Chris and Mike Grace-Dacosta is it. We had a summer intern, Cassidy Muir, who did a very good job, but she is back to school. Actually Chris is away on his honeymoon/ vacation so we are down to Mike and the part-timers.
Perhaps my biggest frustration at times is that we don’t know what might be going on. I’ve sometimes quipped that maybe Joe Q. Public thinks that we have a research department that has the time and ability to find out what tournaments are going on and what events are coming up.
Unfortunately we don’t have such a department! As a result, we might miss a lot of things that are going on. I would suggest that if your group has an athletic event coming up, please let us know in advance. We can’t guarantee it but we might be able to get someone there to take a few pictures and conduct some interviews.
We have that wide range of activity I mentioned earlier. Not just for youngsters, for kids of all ages. That’s what makes it so great. The wide ranging multi-sport availability allows for and inspires lifelong participation in physical activity that helps us all have healthier, happier lives.