Cowichan Valley sports volunteers get well-earned recognition

Sports in the Cowichan Valley and throughout B.C. would not be able to function without the enormous contributions of volunteers.

Sports in the Cowichan Valley and throughout B.C. would not be able to function without the enormous contributions of volunteers.

With that in mind, SportBC and KidSport presented the Community Sport Hero Awards to eight deserving recipients on Feb. 16.

For the last 14 years, the Community Sport Hero Awards have recognized coaches, officials, mentors and administrators who make sports possible at the community level. The awards are being presented in four different communities this year, with the Cowichan Valley getting its chance earlier this month.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” North Cowichan Mayor and Cowichan Valley Regional District Chair Jon Lefebure said at the ceremony. “There is no way to say thank you enough.”

Honourees included Stan McKinlay, Susan Harrison, Tina Knott, Ernie Mansueti, Sam Mazur, Lorne Winship, Bill Keserich and Bryan Harper, representing a cross-section both of the variety of sports within the Cowichan Valley and the many roles filled by volunteers.

Over more than 40 years, McKinlay has filled nearly every role possible in the sport of softball, including park president, umpire, tournament director, clinic organizer, concession operator and member of the field crew. He has coached teams to the girls softball Little League World Series, district, regional, provincial, Western and national tournaments, and has coached the Zone 6 BC Summer Games team for the last four years.

Harrison has also filled numerous roles in the equestrian community, helping to develop horse sport in the Valley, especially for junior and amateur riders. She has been a coach, mentor and facilitator with multiple local clubs including 4H, Pony Club, and therapeutic riding. Harrison has also been an official, as well as a director with the Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association and the Cowichan District Riding Club.

“Sport for me has become the new neighbourhood,” Harrison said. “Kids aren’t encouraged to go out in the neighbourhood anymore. That’s where kids learn about fair play, winning and losing and all those things that we encourage through sports.”

Knott is also involved in the equestrian field, in the sport of carriage driving. Knott sits on the board of directors for BC Carriage Drivers and its local branch. In addition to coaching, she plans out monthly events from April to December, planning locations, laying out courses and organizing volunteers.

Mansueti works as North Cowichan’s director of parks and recreation, but also volunteers behind the scenes with a variety of sports and sport-related groups. He was instrumental in establishing KidSport Cowichan and continues to serve on the board seven years later. He is also involved with the Cowichan Valley Old Hustlers hockey teams and helps organize the Old Hustlers’ yearly ALS fundraiser tournament, and has spent years volunteering with minor hockey, baseball and soccer.

Mazur has volunteered with the Fernando Correia School of Karate for nearly 20 years. A black belt himself, Mazur teaches both traditional and competitive karate, helps run tournaments, and encourages the young athletes of the club.

Winship has coached lacrosse since 2000, and has been recognized as one of the best coaches in the province with the B.C. Lacrosse Association’s minor and senior box lacrosse Coach of the Year awards in 2010 and 2014. He has also served as vice president, head coach and senior governor for the Cowichan Valley Lacrosse Association, as well as volunteering as a coach, manager and executive member in minor hockey.

Keserich is deservedly known throughout the Cowichan Valley as “Mr. Soccer.” He began coaching in the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association in the 1970s and has been CVSA president since the 1980s. Keserich has also served as head referee and CVSA Lower Island Soccer Association representative, and still lines the fields, schedules games, handles registration and serves as a mentor to coaches and players. He was instrumental in the construction of the CVSA clubhouse and the new synthetic turf field. The list of honours and awards Keserich has received is nearly endless.

Harper has competed at all levels of the sport of archery, from local and provincial to national and world championships. He sits on the executive of the Cowichan Bowmen archery club, and was recently elected as BC Archery’s athlete representative. At the club he also hosts events including family nights, school fairs, and tournaments, as well as helping out with the Junior Olympian program.