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Wowchuk Honoured for Coaching


In the world of sports, it is always a great achievement to win Player of the Year, or win a coveted championship title. But, going one step further, that elusive achievement, meant only for those who have truly contributed greatness to the sport, is an invitation to the Hall of Fame.
Local football coach Rick Wowchuk has gained such recognition, being announced as one of the 2018 Manitoba Football Hall of Fame inductees earlier this month, with the ceremony taking place last Wednesday (March 21).
“This invitation came as a surprise to me,” said Wowchuk. “It’s a pretty interesting group I’m with and I was looking forward to seeing many of them again.
“It’s an exciting, overwhelming and humbling thing for me.”
Wowchuk’s football career began in the early 1970s when he played the sport during his high school days here in the Swan Valley. He was named to the Manitoba Junior Football All Star Team in 1974 and 1978, while playing for the St. James Rods. Wowchuk then went on to play for the University of Manitoba Bisons, before coming back to the Valley to begin his teaching career with the Swan Valley School Division.
“When I finished university, I knew nothing about coaching, but the coaches of the high school team here just said I should come to the sidelines and talk to the guys about what I saw,” said Wowchuk.
“Off and on through the 1980s I helped as much as I could before getting really into it in the late 1980s when I (took a teaching position at the SVRSS). I then coached until around 2012 when the next coach took over.”
During his coaching career, spanning more than 30 years, Wowchuk saw many players run across his field, some for just a season, but some who went on to make football a bigger part of their lives.
“The players had such passion, they lived and slept football,” he said. “Our program wouldn’t have happened without them and my fellow coaches who really invested in it.
“We went for the ‘Drive for Five’ in the 1990s and ended up winning five provincial titles, that was a big highlight.”
In the midst of all the games played and players coached, the game of football itself changed.
“The biggest change I saw is in skill development for the players,” said Wowchuk. “When I was in school, we ran sprints and lifted weights, but now there’s so many elements the players do to develop skill and muscle.
“Football also isn’t just a fall sport anymore, it’s year round. If someone wants to excel at it, they have to participate in all these camps to really get that skill level required to move up.”
Wowchuk also noted that football was and still is a huge opportunity for a number of the young men who take up the sport.
“(Playing football) gave them the confidence to rise and feel good about themselves, and then they moved on into society and that confidence carried them to become pretty good young men,” he said.”
As Wowchuk reflected on his career, his true passion for the sport shone in every memory.
“My love of the game probably came from my early coaches and the confidence they built in me, giving me opportunities,” he said. “My coaches inspired me, so I tried to do that for my players. I wanted to open doors for opportunities like I had.”
Although there were many evenings spent away from his family over the football seasons, he looks back and knows he wouldn’t change a thing and is grateful for their acceptance of that.
“I may be getting recognized for an accomplishment, my years of coaching, and what I gave to the sport, but the biggest thing is the achievement of my fellow coaches, fellow players, and passing on the love of the game,” Wowchuk concluded.
“The passion of the players helped make me a better person. This award is something I share with all the people that made me the person I am. I wouldn’t be here without the things instilled from all the people I met along the way.”