Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Coach that Believed in His Kids

I bet no one ever heard of Joe Sullivan – up to last evening. From his appearance on the TV screen last night, he appeared as a bearded and jovial fellow. He is a High School Coach in Hazelton, B.C. – a rural area of this great province. In fact I bet very few people have heard of Hazelton, B.C. either before listening to Joe Sullivan last evening.

The CBC talked to Joe because of one of his former students, Carol Huynh – Canada’s Gold Medallist in the 2008 Olympic Women’s Wrestling.

Together with millions of others I watched earlier as Carol was presented with her Gold Medal and the Canadian anthem was played. Her tears were real and so were many of ours. This gal had worked so hard and now was being rewarded for all her hard work.

But at that very moment in Hazelton, Joe Sullivan and I dare say the entire town was absolutely beside themselves with joy. One of their little girls had struck Gold! The encouragement of Carol’s coach together with her family had made the difference. People believed in her and she had made it.

No wonder she cried as they played the anthem!

As Joe spoke by telephone to the CBC host he described how he had developed the local wrestling program in a school and school board that had no money for programs like this.

Joe told us how the students needed to wrestle against better competition – so they needed to travel out from Hazelton – which is a long ways from other major centers. So Joe organized the purchase of TWO VANS. Now I didn’t get it – if he paid for them himself or simply raised the money to buy them. The CBC dude was in a hurry to smile more at the camera… and didn’t pick up on that point.

Joe went on to describe how they had needed to raise money to pay for the travel. They did that by getting the students to use chainsaws and cut fire wood, then pick up and load firewood, then deliver firewood – making for stronger muscles.

As he spoke, the beautiful Carol Huynh, beamed from ear to ear, and flexed her muscles showing how she had lifted firewood as exercise.

My hat is off to Joe Sullivan and his many students that worked so hard over these years – quietly behind the scenes to give your kids a chance. Carol has made us all proud as Canadians… even me so far away in Peterborough, Ontario.

It may seem like a RANT at this point but…. I am bugged by the smiling faces and talking heads of the CBC reporters that go on and on about Mr. Phelps. Sure he is good…but there is so much more than the American Famously Charged athletes. Sure they are spectacular in their own right – but if you knew some of the stories that are Canadian through and through – you would grab them in a heart beat!

Now in my case I watch some American TV – duh! And not once did they mention a Canadian athlete. In fact they don’t broadcast when their own are not participating. They hang on every action and reaction of their Olympians. The other night they were covering the American Soft Ball Game. When a player came to do her part – the announcer mentioned that her parents were in the audience having traveled all the way from Kansas… and gave the parents names – something like “Tad and Shirley”… in fact in all the athletes they feature they have talked about all the support have been given!

Now I am delighted for Carol Huynh and her Gold – but more delighted for Joe Sullivan and his contribution. Joe you ROCK!

But at the same time I am typing this I am absolutely proud of Zach Bell – but I know I have told you that before… I know – I know…!

But behind Zach is Greig Bell, his dad that is a teacher in Watson Lake, Yukon. Greig is also the Coach for many sports in his small northern school. He taught Zach and many others how to wrestle and compete at their absolute best. He traveled with them hundreds and even thousands of miles to get the best opportunities! Greig’s story is even more amazing than Joe’s – in that I know it better for much longer. (Greig is my brother-in-law too) And Hey - I am proud of Greig and what he has done.

Add to that Karen Lincoln Bell, my little sister and Zach Bell’s mom, – I am ready to explode with pride. My little sister – believes in her kids. She lives in Whitehorse, Yukon and traveled all the way to Beijing to see her son do his stuff. She paid the big airfare and then the REALLY BIG HOTEL FARE – at $600 USD a night for at least a week. Add to that the nod off that she will experience while watching the events – with 12 hours difference – JET LAG is a night mare. She will fall asleep in a heart beat – even when she is chewing! But she believes in her son and has sacrificed a thousand times over to see him win.
Quite a few years ago when Zach was in University and wrestling on their Team (Calgary I think) – he discovered Cycling of all kinds. It was then that the conditioning that his dad Greig had helped so much – he was a natural fit for the bike and in wonderful shape.

Entering the Olympic field and then finally going to the Olympics - Zach had already ranked 10th in all of Canada and perhaps the world – in all his events. My mom told me about that because her “Pedal” magazine has the stories about Zach.

Today as I think of Joe Sullivan, Greig Bell, and Karen Lincoln Bell – I think of all the people behind the scenes that have made such a difference by believing in the little guys and gals that came to have fun.

Oh yes – that was another one of the wonderful things that Joe included in his sharing last night – the students had to have fun and everyone was welcome with no conditions placed on them. He believed in them.

These coaches and parents believed in the kid – believed that they would go somewhere – someday – AND THEY DID.

Now personally I had my Dad, Cliff Lincoln, then there was Alvin Klien – my Sunday School Teacher, then there was Mr. Dynna – my Gym Teacher, then there was Scottie – my Wrestling Coach, then there was Whitie – My Cross Country Coach – who had paddled completely across Canada in a canoe….. Then there was…..

~ Murray Lincoln ~

Joe Sullivan and Carol Huynh’s story

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