Print Edition: April 1, 2015
If award show success is measured by the number of times a name is called from the podium, the biggest star of the 2014-15 Athletics Awards Night was Tyne Campbell, UFV Athletics’ head athletic therapist.
“Usually they’re glaring at me while I’m giving them heck for not stretching or not doing what they’re supposed to,” she said during a speech to recognize the team of student therapists she oversees. But removed from in-season pressure, athletes, coaches, and staff gathered at the Ramada Plaza in Abbotsford to sing each others’ praises, the 2014-15 schedule cast in the glow of recent memory. Nicole Wierks, returning as an alumna speaker after graduating last year, summed up many of the night’s sentiments: “I remember almost all of it as fun, even the bad stuff.”
University athletes have a short playing career: following high school or junior leagues, they compete for a maximum five years, often with coaching aspirations or a career outside of athletics as their goal post-eligibility. That was the lens UFV president Mark Evered chose to look at the athletics program with.
“I just thought I’d put what we’re doing here tonight in a context of conversations that are taking place throughout our province,” he said. “We’re hearing a lot about skills gaps and skills agendas, and governments these days are big on making sure our educations programs in the classroom and outside the classroom are meeting the needs of this province in terms of skills.” These skills, Evered said (problem solving, commitment, self-motivation, and managing criticism, among others), are uniquely developed in an athletic setting.
“I have no doubt that not only are you going to benefit from the skills you’ve learned in athletics, in your programs here at UFV, but your future employers are going to benefit,” he said.
Between these two perspectives, of the recent past and the approaching future, the awards and speeches of the night attempted to encompass all the stages of athletic life. Rookie awards went to Monika Levarsky and Tammer Byne, both from soccer, and the retirement of men’s soccer coach Alan Errington took up a significant portion of the night as colleagues, understudies, and athletes from his coaching career spoke of his “dedication and humour.”
To recognize the five graduating seniors from the mens’ soccer team, Errington recalled how, in the cases of Ryan Liddiard, Trevor O’Neill, and Mark Village, he had taught their fathers or uncles: generations learning from the same teacher.
“He recycles all his stories, he recycles all his jokes — don’t be fooled,” went one retort. Other UFV coaches spoke of looking up to Errington, as both Dennis Bokenfohr and Rob Giesbrecht admitted the debt of influence they felt. Errington coached in the Canadian national soccer program before coming to UFV; the sense from an hour-plus of “remember-when” was not just the influence of his motivation felt by former players, but how, with his retirement, so goes one of the last people to know of Canada’s soccer program when the World Cup was still in reach.
Village co-emceed the night with Kadeem Willis, from the men’s basketball team. The two swapped uniforms, talked fondly of Errington and Campbell, and decided dining order by asking questions that tested knowledge of Jasper Moedt’s height, the fine for showing up late to an Errington practice, and other sports trivia. (Responses were slightly quicker to identify the golf club brand Bubba Watson swings in television advertisements than the decade Canada’s flag debuted.)
While he took the role, delaying a sabbatical, with an interim tag over the summer, Chris Bertram was athletics director for the entire season.
[pullquote]“I remember almost all of it as fun, even the bad stuff.”[/pullquote]
“I haven’t really seen [my wife] since August,” he said in the night’s opening remarks. Bertram, who also mentioned Campbell to a scattered chorus of “Tyne!” (“It’s not an easy job, and it’s not a thankful one very often”), presented the night’s format as a change from previous year’s events.
“We’ve decided to give a few of the student athletes a bit more time up here at the microphone,” he said before joking, “because we all know how much everyone loves public speaking.”
But as this was a gathering of teams, and as sports culture in Canada is thought to reward humility, sacrifice, and hard work outside the spotlight, most student speakers deflected attention. Representatives from each team gave brief reports on their season: statistics, medals, playoff results, and the recurring theme of memories that will endure, or anticipation for next year in cases where the speaker had remaining eligibility.
“There are a lot of memories made with this team that won’t be forgotten; more than just volleyball, they are relationships that will last a lifetime,” said Joel Kleingeltink.
When it came time for individual awards, there were no acceptance speeches. Instead, coaches spoke of the reasoning for the award: they had a good year, they displayed leadership qualities, here’s an anecdote. Even Moedt, who received a community award for his work with Speak Up, a mental health awareness campaign, and for work with the university creating a Peer Support Centre, stepped off the podium with a wave, despite calls for “Speech!” Moedt did return to report on the mens’ basketball team season, semi-religiously intoning that those in attendance should turn to page four in the yearbooks placed at every table in hall, where the team’s accomplishments were the story.
Announcing the Athlete of the Year awards, with three nominees on a projected display, Evered casually stated, “No real mystery here.” A few murmurs went through the audience. “Ouch,” someone said. Evered explained that, statistically, there was no equal for recognition in Athletics this year.
“When times got a bit grim [this term], there’d be yet another announcement of one of your many achievements,” he said, as women’s basketball statistics leader Sarah Wierks approached the stage. “Thank you for brightening so many of our days.”
Aaron Pauls was named the male Athlete of the Year. He was not in attendance, having begun graduate studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Stephen Wall, from the rowing team, won the Jen Simpson Memorial award for his work organizing the Row for a Cure ergathon and encouraging connections between different varsity teams, including game attendance.
With Errington’s retirement, assistant coach Tom Lowndes will be moving into the head position. Steve Tuckwood, coming from UBC, will be the next Athletics Director. He was not in attendance. Neither was UFV’s wrestling team, which has members under investigation by the university for conduct that took place at a February tournament. Following the awards night, UFV also announced Bokenfohr, coach of the women’s volleyball team, will not be brought back next season.
“We wish him well in all his future endeavors,” Bertram said in a press release.