COACH OF THE YEAR, MARK MCRAE, WRESTLING
SCHOOL: Guildford Park (Surrey)
Posted by: Howard Tsumura on June 18, 2012
Guildford Park wrestling coach Mark McRae and some of his Sabres. (Ward Perrin, PNG)
So many talk about the value of youth sports programs in our communities, but so very few of those programs actually grow to the point where they become a part of the actual fabric of their neighbourhoods.
That’s what makes the wrestling program at Surrey’s Guildford Park Secondary so special and why readers of The Province voted Mark McRae, one of its guiding forces, Head of the Class 2012′s Coach of the Year.
Twelve years ago, the Sabres wrestling program was re-instated, getting the boost to buy its athletes new singlets and boots with a donation from the Surrey Firefighters, who also later established three annual scholarships for deserving grapplers.
And with the firefighter McRae giving back daily with his instruction on the mats, the program has not only contended for titles, but helped shape the service-oriented future of so many of its athletes.
Arminder Virk was one of those wrestlers, and he always told McRae he wanted to become a fireman.
“So I told him that he had to get involved in the community and give back, because that’s what firefighters do,” explained McRae. “He’s now 23, he was named Surrey’s youth Volunteer of the Year, and he is going through the process (of becoming a fireman).
“We have coached numerous provincial and national champions,” adds McRae, who coaches the team with Bryan Stretch, “but when you can see a kid turn into a gentleman, that says everything to me. I had my mentors and now I kind of hope I am able to have some kind of influence as well.”
And the feeling of full-circle family that comes with seeing a past graduate like Virk make such positives strides into his community is self-confirmation to McRae of why he does what he does.
“I don’t look at it as volunteering because I get as much out of it as the kids do and I have made lifetime friends,” he explains, happy to donate the entire cheque that goes with Coach of the Year honours right back into the wrestling program.
“A thousand dollars,” he says, “is going to go a long way for the wrestlers.”