The list of athletes to come out of Red Deer and area over the years has been impressive to say the least.
Athletes who have competed at all levels provincially, nationally and internationally.
And the credit ultimately comes back to their coaches.
One such coach is Sherry Schulzke.
Schulzke has spent the past 22 years in the city teaching math and coaching a number of sports, but mainly volleyball.
The Cudworth, Sask., native takes a great deal of pride in not only helping develop such athletes as national team members Julie Young and Jaimie Thibeault, but helping the every day athlete who played the game for the fun of it.
“I love it,” she said. “Over the years I’ve coached over 40 kids who have played post-secondary sports, but I enjoy working with all the kids and watching to see how they excel and what they do with their lives.”
Sherry, who has been at St. Joseph High School since it opened in 2017, will retire from teaching this weekend, but that’s not the end of the story. She plans on continuing to coach at the high school level, “until I feel it’s time to step down.”
She’s looking forward to retiring from teaching and joining husband Ken.
“He’s retired and wants me to as well and Quinn is expecting her third (baby) and I can spend some time with them.”
Quinn Wowchuk is one of the top grads from the Notre Dame High School program. Quinn went on to star with the RDC Queens, married former RDC King Chris Wowchuk, and settled in Red Deer.
“Quinn and Chris came in to help coach a bit with St. Joes … in fact we’ve had a number of people come in to help including referee Harvey Penhale. I know the girls love it.”
Sherry has enjoyed her over 30 years in the classroom.
“I still do but it was time to step down and give someone else a chance.”
Sherry grew up in Cudworth, playing high school and club volleyball. Her high school team competed in the provincials her final two years, finishing fourth her final season.
She started coaching when she was 16, helping with a younger team. She got her education degree, majoring in physical education and minoring in math, from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
She took her internship at Nutana Collegiate, where she coached the senior girls team.
“They didn’t have a coach so they asked me and that was a great experience,” she said.
After graduation she started teaching at Memorial Comp in Stony Plain. She was there for five years before moving to Stettler for three years and to St. Joseph in Saskatoon for three more. She had a powerhouse in Saskatoon, winning the provincials all three years.
It was while in Saskatoon she met Frank Enns, who got her involved with the provincial program.
“I learned a lot during that time,” she said.
Then it was time to move back to Red Deer. She taught at St. Thomas Junior High for two years before switching to Notre Dame.
She also was involved with the Queens Club program.
“Cor (Ouwerkerk) knew me from Stettler and recruited me when I came here. I don’t coach club any more, but it was a great experience as I got a chance to coach both Julie Young and Jaimie Thibeault.”
In 1999, Sherry and Barb Young coached the Queens U16 program to gold.
At Notre Dame Sherry coached the senior girls team the majority of the time, except for a two-year period when she was on the bench with the senior boys.
“Chris (Wandler), who I always worked well with, wanted to coach the senior girls and we were looking for a senior boys coach so I took it. It was really neat experience.”
She took it over in 2009 and worked with a number of players who went on to play university and college, including Jon Goranson and Anthony and Tim Finnigan.”
“I’m five-foot-three and a lot shorter than all the boys and one neat picture was of me waving my finger at Jon (Goranson) who is six-foot-six,” she said with a laugh.
After the two years it was back to the girls program at Notre Dame and now St. Joes.
“It was a rewarding experience taking over St. Joes as I built the program from scratch,” she said.
Last year they qualified for the 3A provincials, and this year with six Grade 12s would have had another strong program, but they only played briefly before the season was cancelled.
Sherry indicated it was tough on all players, especially those who were looking to play post-secondary.
“One girls (a middle) was hoping to play for RDC,” she said. “The good thing was we played briefly and had some video and the kids these days are good at promoting themselves, so they should get the chance to play.”
While her coaching days aren’t over, Sherry looks back over her career and has nothing but good thoughts.
“Looking back I worked with so many great kids such as Leighann Doan in Stettler, and (former Red Deer Rebel) Colby Armstrong in Saskatoon and of course all the kids here.
“I also enjoyed working with everyone in Red Deer. Talbot (Walton) and Chris (Wandler) gave us great support and we have a strong mentoring group in Red Deer. We’re competitive, but work together for the betterment of all the kids.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org