During my two different stints in Red Deer, I’ve learned a few things about this city that I’m more than proud to call home.
The first thing is that I don’t think I have ever lived in a community that is more generous than Red Deer, and that fact is repeatedly proven to me whenever a non-profit puts out a fundraising call or one of our fellow residents falls on hard times.
The second is that I have never encountered a community where the volunteer spirit is as high as it is here.
The reason I bring these facts up is that the City recently extended the deadline for nominations for the Community Sport Awards, with the cut off for entries now being this Friday.
If I was a betting man, and I’m not normally, I would think the extension is the result of not enough nominations being received.
In a city of this size, and with this much community spirit, we can’t find enough deserving athletes, coaches or volunteers to recognize?
I find that hard to believe.
Everyone in this community knows of a coach who dedicates countless hours to helping young athletes excel at their chosen sport.
Everyone in this community knows of a volunteer who spends countless hours at the arena, gymnasium, etc. making sure that young athletes have a place to learn and play.
And everyone in this community knows of an athlete who stays behind after practice to help out a struggling teammate or club member.
So why isn’t City Hall facing a deluge of nominations for the Sport Awards?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that we owe our young athletes, coaches and volunteers better.
I remember back when I was a young athlete, swimming competitively and I remember how excited I was when I received my swim club’s most improved athlete award one particular season.
I was touched, and honoured, that my coach had noticed the extra work I was putting in at practice and took the time to make sure I was recognized for that work.
In all honesty, it’s something that I remember to this day, and even though almost two decades has passed, I still have that certificate safely tucked away with all of my other keepsakes.
The grassroots level of any sport is the most important level out there, as that is where every athlete, regardless of their interest, gets started.
Would Red Deer native Jeremy Wotherspoon have achieved international success in speed skating without local coaches pushing him to be the best he could be or local volunteers working to make sure he had the facilities needed to practice at?
Would figure skating legend Kurt Browning have captured four World single’s titles or appeared at the Olympic Games without his parents making the daily trip from Caroline to Rocky Mountain House to take him to practice early on in his career?
And it’s not just athletes, coaches or volunteers that can be nominated, as there are 13 different categories in the Community Sport Awards, including Local Business Contributor of the Year or Official of the Year.
Those last two awards are especially important because, as many of us know, many sports clubs or teams wouldn’t be able to function if not for the financial support that comes from local businesses.
It’s also important to recognize officials, if for no other reason than being brave enough to enforce the rules of the sport they choose.
So what are we waiting for?
With only two days left until the deadline, all of us should take some time to think of a deserving individual or group, and then head over to www.reddeer.ca and submit a nomination form.