Talk about a modest concept.
Red Deer’s coach of the year insists that he’s only as good as the players he puts on the court, and Chris Wandler clearly has a point.
“It shows the quality of athletes we have in this region. A reflection of a coach often depends on how the athletes perform and it’s really a testament to them,” Wandler said Thursday, after picking up coach of the year honours during the Red Deer Community Sports Award dinner at the Legion.
Still, the job Wandler has done at the high school, college and club levels speaks volumes about his abilities, although he was quick to point out that his supporting cast has been impressive all the way.
“The type of mentors we have in sport, and not just in our sport, is impressive. I think you learn from everybody and take a little piece of everybody as you go along,” he insisted. “But it all comes down to the athletes. For the most part, they want to learn and they want to get better, which makes our job a whole heck of a lot easier as coaches.
“It makes it enjoyable to be in the gym, and I think it’s primarily the juice that keeps us going as coaches. They are good people. They want to be here, which kind of gives us the energy to be in the gym with them.”
Wandler is coming off an impressive season in which he coached the Notre Dame high school girls to a bronze medal at the provincial 4A high school championship and served as an assistant to Red Deer College Queens head man Talbot Walton, whose squad captured the Alberta title.
The 38-year-old has also coached at the provincial under-16 and under-18 levels — finishing second with the Alberta juvenile girls’ team in the Canadian championship two years ago — and will be a member of the Alberta entry for the 2009 Canada Summer Games.
“I knew I kind of always wanted to be in a coaching situation, I just didn’t know it would be volleyball,” said Wandler. “The sport grew on me and I appreciate everything it’d done for me. It’s been a gradual progressed and I’ve always aspired to bring myself to the level to that of Talbot and Keith (former RDC Kings volleyball coach Hansen).”
Wandler, who will coach the Notre Dame senior boys team next season, is appreciative of the calibre of athletes that exist in Central Alberta.
“This area is definitely a hotbed for volleyball and it also shows what kind of program we have here that teams have done so well,” he said.
The Red Deer Advocate open female and male athlete of the year awards — decided by representatives of various city sports groups — went to biathlete Zina Kocher and trampoline specialist Kyle Soehn. Neither of the international-level athletes were present and were therefore unavailable for comment.
The junior male and female athlete of the year awards were presented to trampoline specialist Keagan Soehn and artistic gymnast Megan Louis, while the senior athlete awards went to tennis players Bill and Marla Wyten.
Keith McDonald was selected as the sports volunteer of the year for his work with gymnastics, the Western Canada runners-up Red Deer belle A North Star Sports Hazard ringette squad and Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs midget girls hockey team shared team of the year honours, hockey referee Grant McCarthy was honoured as official of the year, North Star Sports was named local sport contributor (business) of the year and the Kendall Dunkle minor coach of the year award was presented to Brad Heinzelmeir.
(See volunteer recognition certificates and athlete certificates of recognition in Scoreboard on Page D4)
Contact Greg Meachem at firstname.lastname@example.org