On Thursday evening, the Lethbridge Sport Council Achievement Awards were presented at the Canadian Western Bank Lounge in the ENMAX Centre. Among the winners were many deserving athletes, including Alyssa Fraser (Junior Female Athlete), Ethan Choi (Junior Male Athlete), Rachel Nicol (Senior Female Athlete), Tanner Sudo (Senior Male Athlete) and Zack McAllister (Athlete with a disability). These athletes all had impressive accomplishments in 2016, with a list of trophies, awards, championships, MVP’s and personal bests a mile long.
Beyond the athletic performance awards were award recipients in the categories of ‘Sport Excellence’ and ‘Sport Leadership’. These recipients are often the unsung heroes of sport. They include officials, coaches, volunteers, administrators and sport champions.
Mitch Ball, a local umpire with over 20 years of experience is one of the every few Canadian umpires with the credentials to officiate at the Olympic Games. Mitch has a passion for baseball, and as a Provincial Lead Evaluator conducts clinics for baseball umpires from beginner to international. Mitch Ball is the recipient of the 2016 LSCAA award for Officiating Excellence.
In the Coaching Excellence category, 2 winners emerged. Ryan Thornley with the Lethbridge Amateur Swim Club coaches the Jr National group of swimmers, is a dry-land training coach for National level swimmers and is a training coach for Olympic finalist, Rachel Nicol. When Paralympian Zack McAllister was accepting his award, he mentioned Ryan’s willingness to help when Zack was selected to the Olympic team with just a couple week’s notice. Ryan’s nomination package was filled with testimonials from athletes he has coached and their parents, leaving no doubt the positive impact a coach can have.
This year’s Coaching Excellence co-winner is Jesse Sawyer. A former Prairie Baseball Academy player, Jesse played 3 seasons of NCAA Division I baseball at South Dakota State University while finishing an Education degree. Jesse is the current head coach of the PBA Junior Varsity team and Head coach of the Lethbridge Bulls. Jesse’s passion for the sport of baseball was obvious when he took the podium to accept his award. There was no doubt of his love of the game.
This year’s Volunteer in Sport Award was presented to someone who is making a difference in youth sport at the grass-roots level. Recognizing a need in Lethbridge, Jennifer Drader has worked hard to revitalize softball in Lethbridge. As the president of the Lethbridge Minor Softball Association, Jen has rebuilt the executive, recruited new coaches, planned pitching clinics and coach training opportunities, revamped the club's website and registration process, and to top it off, coaches herself. LMSA registration numbers have tripled under Jennifer’s leadership and dedication.
Scott Sweetman has been a tireless advocate of introducing youth to the safe and effective use of firearms. Scott is the founder of the Safety Training program (STP) and the Safe Shooting Team (SST). Scott selects youth candidates who, more than just having interest and talent, have the attitude of giving back and supporting their fellow team members. Zach Wall, SAFE team member says of Scott, “Being a team member myself, I don't always see what's going on behind the scenes, but I do know it's almost always Mr. Sweetman.” Scott Sweetman is this year’s recipient of the Sport Administrator Award.
The Shaun Ward Sport Champion Award this year was presented to Malcom Kano. Malcom is an 18-year and current board member for KidSport Alberta, and is the founding Chair for the Lethbridge/Taber KidSport Society. The great work of KidsSport, under the strong leadership of Malcom, has resulted in thousands of local children having the opportunity to participate in sport, fitting with the KidSport belief that no kid should be left on the sidelines. The Lethbridge Sport Council is honored to have Malcom as the 2016 Shaun Ward Sport Champion.
The criteria for the final award of the night reads: Recognizing and celebrating a community hero who, in the pursuit of sport or support of sport, has demonstrated values such as dedication, perseverance, sportsmanship, respect for others and a true love of sport. This category showcases the magic that lives within sport to inspire, motivate, and capture the hearts and minds of the community. The Award is the Knud Petersen Spirit in Sport Award, aptly named in honor of the first recipient, and this year, the award was presented to Ashley Steacy. Ashley was selected for this award, not for her impressive accomplishments on the rugby field, but rather because of her character, the way she has embraced the honor of role model, and the connection she has made in this community in the time following the Games in Rio. Ashley is an inspirational local athlete and she has accepted her role in our community graciously. She is a mentor for our youth that we can be very proud of.
This year we honored 5 athletes for their accomplishments in their sports of golf, weightlifting, swimming, football and judo. We also honored 7 distinct individuals who selflessly give of themselves so others can be successful on the field, the court, the diamond, the pool or wherever their own passion might take them. Often these people who are doing so much behind the scenes, and on their own time, do so for the love of the game, not for the recognition, and it’s easy to forget how many supporting roles it takes to have a successful athlete. So the next time you are at the rink, the pool or the diamond, make sure you take a minute to thank an official, a coach, a volunteer or an administrator, and let them know how appreciated their efforts, skills and dedication are.
If you are interested in getting more involved in sport, in any capacity, contact the Lethbridge Sport Council for assistance. You can visit their website at www.lethbridgesportcouncil.ca, or the Lethbridge 2017: Get Active Through Sport website at www.lethbridge2017.ca. (sorry, website no longer available)
- Tanya Whipple
Originally published in the Lethbridge Herald on April 7th, 2017