A high school coach from Fort St. James who has spent 28-years coaching the girls basketball and volleyball teams, is the recipient of the 2018 ViaSport Community Coach of the Year Award.
Izzy Willick, coach at Fort St. James secondary has won the award, and was nominated by James Waddell, athletics director of the school. He said the annual coach of the year award recognizes outstanding coaches in B.C. for their dedication and contribution to sport.
Waddell said, “Izzy has made a huge contribution to sport in Fort St. James and the surrounding areas. She has also been very good at taking girls from our small town and helping them understand volleyball and how to play it at the highest level for Single A school sports… Until now, she hasn’t received the recognition she deserves. We are a small and rural school and it is coaches such as Izzy that help build a community and provide student athletes with the opportunities they would never have without a volunteer coach.”
The award which was founded by the Coaches Association of B.C., celebrates community leaders who continually inspire athletes to realize and reach their potential, Waddell said, noting that Willick was nominated in the Community Coach category which includes school coaches.
Willick said she felt really humbled by the award.
“I am so humbled and honoured, beyond words. It was completely something unexpected and shocking,” she said.
Willick got into coaching after high school as she said there was a dearth of basketball coaches in the District. After coaching basketball for a season, the principal of Fort St. James Secondary at the time, asked her whether she would coach the volleyball team in September. Willick said she was on board and started coaching both the baskeball and volleyball teams.
She is also in charge of the Ski School Program at the local ski hill.
“I fell in love with coaching, got certified and 28 years later, here I am. I love coaching because of the interaction I get with the kids. I love getting to know the girls and seeing their growth change in the season and how much a team sport can do for an individual. That’s my pride and joy, just being able to see the girls and athletes I coach and then seeing those athletes turn around and coach later in life is my biggest achievement,” Willick said.
“When I see them giving back to the community, it is something I just take so much pride in.”
Under Willick, the Fort St. James Secondary School girls volleyball team have qualified for Provincials six times. They have also finished as runners up and just missing out on qualifying for provincials five times, Waddell confirmed.
Apart from coaching, she has been a tireless ambassador for all school sports and especially girls volleyball in Northern B.C. Willick has held the position of Zone Rep for the Single A Girls Volleyball in B.C. School Sports for many years.
“This role can be very time consuming and Izzy does it year after year. She has been a very effective coach,” Waddell noted.
As for the kind of coach she is, Willick said when she was younger she was a very competitive coach.
“That brain, that mentality, being in my mid-20s, we all want to win. That desire is still there, but it is a different type of winning. I feel now that I want the girls to win at life and not necessarily win at the sport and I always tell the girls — it doesn’t matter, as long as you know that that is the best you could have played on the court on that day, then that’s all I want from you and that’s all I expect from you,” she said.
Her love for sport is infectious and Willick said that she is a huge sports fan. She believes that sports brings people together. She loves sports so much that she treated herself on her 40th birthday, and attended the 2010 Olympics.
Lastly, Willick said she is really appreciative of the players who take out time and effort to give their best at school sports.
“They put their time and trust in me and I am always honoured that they do that. That they come in everyday and they trust me. I am always blow away by their time and dedication and I thank them all the time because without them we have such a small school that if they didn’t dedicate all this time and effort, the school programs would not run. Volleyball would not happen,” she said.