2008 Community Sport Winners
If it involves rolling a ball towards a target, you can bet 80-year-old Adriana Bronk has done it.
When it comes to bowling and bocce in Chilliwack, Bronk has been involved since before she could even speak English, but she quickly grew to love the games, and she got pretty good at them too.
Bronk came to B.C. from Holland in 1969 and a friend suggested she come out to 10-pin bowling where she first lived in Vancouver.
Bronk knew nothing of the game that, at the time at least, didn't exist where she came from, and she didn't want to embarrass herself.
"I didn't want to look funny," the affable Bronk said. "But my friend said there a lot of people who don't know how, so I went out, and sure enough I started with a very low average, 64 I think."
But it wasn't long before the newcomer took the lanes by storm.
"Before a year was over I had the highest ladies' average and I got a trophy for it," she said.
She actually became a first-level coach in bowling, but as anyone who has 10-pin bowled will know, you can't do it forever with those heavy balls. Bronk even broke her wrist with the 10-pin balls, so she moved on to five-pin bowling.
When she moved to Chilliwack in 1985 she continued with five-pin bowling and lawn bowling.
With the Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club she quickly took on the task of training newcomers and she became heavily involved, acting as the club's game chairperson and arranged all home and away games for seven years.
Then came carpet bowling and Bronk has skipped trophy-winning teams in Chilliwack's annual seniors' carpet bowling tournament and has been treasurer of the St. Thomas Seniors' Club since 2002.
In recent years, Bronk is most well-known for, along with Bill Jones, being the driving force behind seniors' bocce ball in Chilliwack. She encouraged the city to upgrade two existing bocce courts and she approached the Chilliwack Seniors Resources Society to purchase an indoor bocce court, which it did.
Bocce for seniors is a reality now in Chilliwack, thanks in no small part to Bronk's hard work.
Carpet bowling is another big hit with seniors. Bronk says they have two big carpets and if they had more space they could use another one.
"We have so much fun," she said. "You should see all the old people."
Right now Bronk is recovering from a broken ankle and while that has left her housebound, it won't keep her down for long.
"I'm not going to sit home," she said. "I like everything about it. It's my life."
When it comes to being nominated as a sport hero, Bronk is pleased, but humble. "Well, I think it's nice, but maybe there's other people who deserve it better than I do," she said.
Lawn bowlers, carpet bowlers and bocce players in Chilliwack think otherwise.
Without Barb Mulligan's diligent work behind the scenes, the action inside the local lacrosse box likely wouldn't happen.
For the past 10 years Mulligan, a mother to three tireless jocks, has been an integral part of the Chilliwack Minor Lacrosse Association (CMLA).
Whether it's registration, picture day, or fundraising, Mulligan is always eager to lend a hand-or two. In some cases she's managing these events on her own, so when things need to get done, look no further than Mulligan to carry the stick.
"If it needs to be done, Barb just does it," Scott Semple, president of CMLA, notes. "We would be lost without her."
As an essential guide that keeps the guild afloat, Mulligan's volunteer efforts don't always inspire others to jump on board. She empathizes with parents because, as she found out, volunteering takes up most, if not all, of one's free time.
"It's like any other minor sport," she laughs. "Parents don't always want to commit because they don't know what the commitment is."
Mulligan started as a registrar her first year, after eldest son Brandon started playing Cougar lacrosse, and over time her role expanded to treasurer and bingo coordinator. In terms of the amount of involvement she puts in, these titles are modest, says Semple.
"Her contributions far surpass those of her duties."
When asked how much time she spends helping out the organization, Mulligan modestly deflects praise on to fellow board members.
"Yeah, we do a lot as a group. A lot of them even coach as well as taking a seat on the board. So there's a lot of us doing a lot of things for lacrosse."
When daughter Nicole joined the Spartan Swim Club six years ago, Mulligan signed up as a timekeeper.
"My kids are very involved in sports so I wanted to be a part of it," she says.
The hard work and effort put in by lacrosse volunteers such as Mulligan paid off this year as the CMLA won the bid to host the B.C. Pee Wee Provincial Championships in July. With 32 teams rolling in to Chilliwack from across the province, arranging accommodation, rink time, volunteers, food and beverage, sponsorship, along with hosting a banquet isn't high on a person's to-do list, but Mulligan says she can't wait to get started.
"We put our bid in and we're lucky enough to get it," she says. "We're thrilled we've been given the opportunity."
Bill Jones might know a thing or two about lawn bowling but it's not a sport he picked up until relatively recently.
He'd seen it played before but had never given it a go during his days growing up in England.
"I'd never done it before," Jones says. "I'd watched it in England. We used to watch the lawn bowling in England in the parks."
He moved from England to Canada, first to Toronto, then White Rock and finally Chilliwack. He took up the game in 1992 and got heavily involved with the Chilliwack Lawn Bowling Club, learning lots from the late greenskeeper John Taylor.
Jones worked with the lawn bowling club for several years and performed different functions, including time on the executive. In all, he spent time with the local club from 1992 to 2005, including the last three years as president. He also served a year as game chairman.
"He supervised and assisted also in every aspect in the operation of the club," says Robert Warman. "He put in a 100 per cent work effort at all times. I highly recommend Bill Jones as a 2008 Community Sport Hero recipient."
These days, Jones has switched from one ball to another, having moved over from the local lawn bowling club to the seniors' centre on Corbould where he helps with indoor bocce ball.
He's been busy with the indoor bocce group for the last four years or so and gets together on a regular basis for bocce in the upstairs loft at the Landing Sports Centre on Spadina. If you don't know bocce, it's similar to lawn bowling. Players toss balls around a play area toward other balls. Usually, it's played outdoors but, in this case, it's been adapted for indoor play.
Still, for Jones, lawn bowling was a pleasurable pursuit for many years. He knows it's not a sport that young people know much about, but he is also a little concerned it might be losing out with older folks, as they too have many more options on how they can spend their leisure time.
"The seniors these days have so much to do otherwise," he says.
Soccer always came naturally for Ernie Tribe-that is until he started coaching.
Growing up in Epson, England, Tribe was first introduced to the "football" game in grammar school. Before long he was selected to Epson's semi-professional team as a budding teenager. Conscripted to the English Army in 1950 during the Second World War, Tribe served his country on the field armed with cleats, instead of a rifle, and spent two years traveling soccer pitches in Germany.
Ernie moved to Manitoba in 1966, but it wasn't until he came to the West Coast years later that Tribe began sharing his soccer knowledge and experience as a coach. Boasting a decorated resume as a player, Tribe quickly learned teaching youngsters can be quite a challenge.
"I started out thinking, 'This is going to be easy.' You know what I soon found out though-I couldn't coach," he admitted. "Playing is not the same as teaching. There's a lot of psychology involved in coaching, getting the best out of players. I've never been taught that."
Tribe signed up for his Level 3 coaching certificate at Shawnigan Lake in 1986, and learned the skills he needed to excel. After living in South Surrey and coaching his son for a few years, Tribe moved to Chilliwack with his family. And the moment he rolled into town, his soccer services were called upon. "At the time there was a demand for coaches in Chilliwack," he recalls. "I literally moved here one day, and was coaching the next."
Armed with more than 150 soccer specific drills and 40 years of playing, Tribe and his arsenal of experience were gifts to minor soccer in Chilliwack. Hundreds of boys squads from house league to metro excelled under the Tribe's tutelage.
"I was a stickler for soccer skills," he admitted. "I found anything I could on soccer skill development. All my drills are associated with skills; ball control, the ability to shoot, pass, throw, tackle, positional play. Skill training was priority to me because without it you could never reach your potential."
Having achieved success at about every level of soccer and coaching, Tribe needed a new challenge. Reading the newspaper one afternoon, he stumbled upon a curious advertisement.
"I remember seeing a wanted ad for coaching girls soccer," he said. "Girls soccer was taboo in England. I didn't know anything about it until someone mentioned it to me once. Out of curiosity I applied for the job and got it as head coach."
Coaching and selecting the girls for the U-14 Zone 3 BC Summer Games team, Tribe received a huge eye-opener: absorbing his skill training after just a few formal practices, the girls put in to action Tribe's winning formula and earned a silver medal.
"I got the biggest surprise of my life. They really changed my views on girls and sports. They absorb information like a sponge."
Sticking with a coaching motto of working with a specific team for no longer than two years, to diversify their exposure to different coaching styles, Tribe started a U-13 girls team from scratch in 2001. By the end of the year, the "Golden Girls," as the local papers would describe them, went undefeated on their way to winning the Provincial Championship.
Two years ago Tribe hung up his cleats and whistle, having coached in Chilliwack for nearly 20 years. When it comes to youth soccer tournaments-Coastal Cup, Fraser Valleys, Provincials-he has coached a champion in all of them.
Yet after spending a lifetime improving the sport from both sides of the pitch, instead of relaxing on the couch Tribe is still involved.
Today the tireless Englishman organizes and participates in a 65 and over league that plays informal scrimmages twice a week at Cheam Centre. "I'm in retirement now," he laughs. "This is isn't work, it's just fun."
To say Mark Toop lives life on the soccer pitch is notan exaggeration. Shuffling the sidelines for more than 30 years, Toop has coached more Chilliwack teams than he can remember. So it's no surprise a few years ago a mother of a player approached him during a soccer game and told him he coached her back in 1977.
"'Oh, yeah?" Toop remembers responding. "'Yeah,' she said. 'And now you're coaching my son.'"
Very few lay claim to coaching two generations worth of family members; however, Toop is one of them.
"One of the greatest feelings I get now," he says in hindsight, "is that I see parents I used to coach now coaching their son's and daughter's teams. It's coaching come full circle."
As a sports fanatic growing up Toop confesses he wasn't the most athletic jock in high school, but boasts he was the most passionate.
"I would play everything. I wasn't always the best. But if there was something going on I would get involved. We never had youth soccer when I was a kid, so when I was 15 years old I joined a men's team."
Finding other ways to satisfy his craving for sports, Toop's first taste of coaching started two years later at age 17. His older brother left home for college, leaving the position of coaching their younger sister Leslie's soccer team and opening the door for Toop.
"I took to it right away. I just wanted to be involved in sports," he said. "I haven't stopped coaching ever since."
Nowadays the father of three juggles his coaching endeavours. And Toop, like Clark Kent, switches roles in a flash. Instead of geeky reporter to spandex super hero it's devoted coach to supportive parent. This past year he coached his eldest son Arthur's U-15 soccer team, even after Arthur sustained a season-ending knee injury early in the year, and daughter Catherine's U-9 squad. Son Patrick played U-12, and despite not coaching, Toop would be at as many games as possible -testing the limits of his soccer dad minivan.
"I get to as many as I can. Catherine's games were in the morning. And if my eldest had a game out of town, those two kid's games I would go to all the time. Patrick if I could make a game of his, I'd be there. But I'd make sure I could be at everyone teams practices."
When the kids were younger, playing youth development soccer, he switched from cleats to cross trainers to coach a year of Athletes in Action youth basketball. Following that he spent three years as executive-treasurer for the Steve Nash Chilliwack Youth Basketball association and remains a member at large.
In 2004 he obtained the Level 4 refereeing certificate and volunteers as as a linesman for Chilliwack minor soccer, and in the spring and summer coaches baseball for his kids' teams. Looking back, Toop doesn't regret living on the field and helping athletes reach their goals. As he says, the view from the bench beats the view from the bleachers.
"I couldn't just stand there and watch. If I'm going to be there watching I might as well be helping these kids out."
Sharon Dahl had a dilemma. It was about 10 years ago when Dahl, a volunteer for the Cheam Skating Club, was entrusted with 150 kids for the annual carnival skating event held at the old Coliseum. Realizing all the dressing rooms were located at the far end of the tunnel, limiting access to every room, she needed a dependable set of eyes to ensure the safety of the kids.
In stepped Bob Lamm. Dahl remembers right away he was perfect for the job. "Bob was standing at the back door of the carnival," she recalls.
"I had no idea who he was. Then I watched as the little kids walked by him clinging to the wall."
Lamm's physical presence, all six-foot-five of it, can be naturally intimidating. However, Dahl says once you get to know him you find out he's the most approachable, friendly guy in the world.
"Bob is a very intimidating looking man because of his stature, but he always has a smile on his face. You realize quite quickly that he's there to help."
Lamm volunteered every year as a security guard for the annual carnival, while his daughter Courtenay, a member of the figure skating team, spun and jumped to the applause of supporting parents.
"They used to call me 'Backdoor Bob,'" recalls Lamm. "I was there for my daughter and I wanted to help in any way I could."
As young Courtenay grew and perfected her skating, Lamm's role as volunteer expanded. Before long he served on the board of directors as ice and facilities liaison. His positive personality enabled him to establish a healthy working relationship with city office and the ice crew at the Coliseum and Twin Rinks. And despite the difficulty of jockeying for ice time with minor hockey, always an issue, Lamm ensured the club received their fair share.
A year ago, the club needed a shake up, and Lamm stepped in taking over as president.
"When nobody else would, Bob stepped up to the plate and said 'I'll learn the job,'" Dahl remembers. "He's learnt the job-and it wasn't always easy."
Despite organizing a predominantly female sport, Bob has thrived in the role. Since Lamm started volunteering 11 years ago the Cheam Skating Club has seen registration numbers rise; they've also added a synchronized skating team and hosted the Synchro Western Canadians in 2006 and then Nationals this year at Prospera Centre, the first time for B.C. in more than a decade.
His son Brad, 18, grew up with a passion for the other sport on ice: hockey. Again, amidst everything he does for skating in Chilliwack, Lamb couldn't keep himself relegated to the stands so he worked the score clock as timekeeper and scorekeeper for Brad's games.
"I volunteer because I can," he said. "And because clubs can only survive through the strength of their volunteers."
Lamm has certainly come a long way since Backdoor Bob, but even nowadays you can still spot him manning the post at a local rink.
"Every event that he comes out to, and that's all of them, we put a description on his name tag and that's, 'Volunteer Extroardinaire,'" Dahl said. "He never has a simple job to do; that's because he does everything."
Sometimes it can be tough for kids to find enough friends to field a team, and sometimes it can be hard for them to find a coach.
That was the situation recently for Stan Kroeker's son Jason, 12, and a few of his friends in Yarrow when they couldn't put together a fastpitch team on their own anymore.
"I had coached these kids since they were six or seven," he says. "They're all friends and they're all in school together."
Without enough teammates to make up a team of their own, the kids joined forces with a nearby group in Abbotsford. Kroeker then offered to put his name forward if the kids needed someone to coach them, and sure enough, they did.
"I think it's important kids stay playing," he says.
Kroeker has coached his son as well as his daughter Vanessa, 16, for several seasons. He works at Masonite in Yarrow but devotes a lot of free time to helping young people in their athletic pursuits. He has coached community sports for years, first as a young adult and, more recently, as a parent.
He's got a pretty big resume when it comes to community sports involvement: boys' soccer, girls' fastpitch, boys' fastpitch, Friday night basketball, Youth Hockey League, a community ball hockey league and a weekly ball hockey league at his church.
"It's just something I decided to do because my kids were involved," he says.
Kroeker played a number of the sports he's coached and others such as competitive touch football. However, a serious knee injury forced him to make the move from the field to the sidelines.
"I just thought I could give back to the community," he says.
The Ens family moved to Yarrow six years ago and Kroeker has coached Josh Ens the entire time. Josh and his parents decided Kroeker was a natural choice for the Community Sport Hero Awards.
"First, he makes sure we are having fun. Second, he teaches us a lot of skills and strategy. Third, he pushes us to be our best," says Josh.
Kroeker sums up his approach in words similar to those of Josh: "I am competitive, but I do want the kids to have fun and I want them to actually learn something."
A number of the fastpitch and soccer teams he has coached or helped out have done well, even at the provincial level. However, his favourite memory goes back to a ball team he coached in the early 1980s. The reason? That's where he met his wife.
Wayne Bjorge has volunteered countless hours to minor football in Chilliwack over the last 16 years, but he does it for one reason.
"It is really satisfying when you gear up a brand new kid in the locker room, and you have his shoulder pads on, and you put a jersey over his shoulder pads and tell the kid, 'now you look like a football player,'" Bjorge says. "You should see the kid grin from ear to ear. That is why I do this."
Bjorge, along with Don Wiens and Keith Currie (a 2007 Sport Hero), started Chilliwack Minor Football (CMF) in 1992 because they were sick of driving so far to find a gridiron.
"We actually had our kids playing in Langley and commuting back and forth and said 'that's enough,'" he says.
What started out small has grown to a large organization with the help of Bjorge's hands-on approach. When they first started they had one tackle team and one flag team. Last year CMF had eight tackle teams, four flag teams and three cheerleading teams.
"We had 300 kids involved," he says. "We've grown considerably."
Bjorge's involvement with football runs deep including: coaching, setting up fields, promoting the game, recruiting coaches and players, picking up garbage at the fields, line painting, building an announcing tower, fundraising and equipment set-up.
He even stayed on volunteering over his years when he commuted to Vancouver for his job as a plumber. He has since set up a Chilliwack business, but even now he has been known to give up a day of work to help out with football, whether it's to line the fields, help coach or ensure games are running smoothly.
Even though Bjorge has acted as vice-president of CMF and in 2005 became president, he is such a hands-on guy that he is out with his wife every game day lining the fields and generally making sure all is in order for the kids on game day.
"Oh, it was always a lot of work, but it's more my hobby so it doesn't seem like work to me, even though I put hours into it," he says.
Bjorge also suggested that football in Chilliwack has done a lot to prevent kids from making bad decisions and getting into trouble. Often sports are commended for keeping kids out of trouble, but for Bjorge football goes the extra yard.
"I think in some respects more than other sports because we practise longer times, our practice to play ratio is eight-to-one," he says.
Because of that extra focus on practice and the very specific roles assigned on a football field, Bjorge thinks kids learn a good lesson that carries over outside of sport.
"Everybody pulls together as a team," he says. And as part of the football "team" in Chilliwack, Bjorge definitely does not want the spotlight; he wants that to stay on the kids.