My job here at the Star and Times allows me to be a part of so many great community events and achievements, witnessing them firsthand each and every week.
This past week it was hockey, hockey and more hockey. From Valley Axemen senior hockey action to Junior A, Atom A and Midget Stampeders games, I was at them all.
Going in to this job, I can’t say I was much of a fan of many sports. Of all of them, hockey has always been, by far, the one I find most tolerable. But, when you’re forced into it as part of the job, eventually it starts to grow on you even more, and the next thing you know, you find yourself able to quote team and individual statistics as well as name every player on said team and recognize them outside of their jersey.
Trust me, when that occurred recently at the end of the Swan Valley Stampeders Junior A season, it was a real head scratcher for me, too. Unfortunately, I’m still no expert in hockey terminology and I don’t understand their strategies most of the time. So, much to our publisher Brian’s disappointment, none of this new found knowledge has really improved my sports writing.
Despite this, I have come to realize how much one observes when they are behind the lens of a camera game after game. Being the unofficial photographer of the team this year, I have watched their every move in telephoto. Each player’s reactions, expressions and even the way they have carried themselves tells me a lot about their personalities and I have started to feel like I know these guys, even though I have never said a word to many of them.
I compare this to how many probably feel about me after reading my columns week after week.
But, there’s lots of other things you observe when out and about at sporting events. You see the audience’s support – or lack thereof – and you see the coaches.
On the front page this week, we celebrate the Atom A Stampeders and their Provincial championship gold. Behind the bench for that team were some very dedicated men, one of those being Craig Zamzow.
So many times in the news, you hear of the negative stories surrounding minor hockey coaches and their actions on the bench. From degrading the athletes to involving themselves in on-ice brawls, sometimes these things overshadow the many positive coaches out there helping our youth.
Craig falls, firmly, into the second category.
On two different occasions this weekend, I watched him interact with the youth on his team, giving them unyielding but respectful prompts from the bench and getting this respect back from each and every player.
So often we forget that sport is more than athleticism. These athletes are learning what it takes to be a team, respect for themselves and others and so many other skills that they will take with them throughout the rest of their lives.
What was most impressive, though, was the lessons that the youth learned in being humble. After the Atom’s big win, it would have been easy to celebrate in a big way, rubbing it in their opponent’s face. But, they were reminded that there would be plenty of time for jubilation after their opponents left the ice and, as each member of the losing team received their silver medals, members of the host, winning team approached them to give congratulations on a good game played. Now, to me, that is sportsmanship at its finest.
Fortunately, Craig is just one example of the many coaches in the Valley who are making a positive difference in the lives of our youth and hockey isn’t the only sport where this is happening. Kudos are more than deserved for the hard work and dedication of each and every coach out there. Thank you!