Fruitvale’s Lis Iannone was honoured last month by Skate Canada BC/Yukon Section with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre.
The prestigious award wasn’t expected, says the Churchill, Man. native, who has coached the Beaver Valley Skating Club for the past 40 years.
“It was a surprise nomination, that they put my name in, and then I found out, then holy cow, I won,” said Iannone. “I had no idea.”
Iannone first joined the Beaver Valley Figure Skating Club (BVSC) as coach when she and her husband Dell moved to Fruitvale in 1977. She has been a motivating and guiding presence ever since.
“It’s pretty cool when you’re on third and fourth generation kids,” said Iannone. “It’s the kids that fuel me to keep going, because once you get on the ice that’s the best part of this job. It’s just such a wonderful career and such an honour to be nominated in a sport that I love.”
The award is bestowed on a person whose attitude and dedication exemplify the spirit of skating, and who has been involved with skating in BC/Yukon for over 25 years. Numerous people from the Beaver Valley community, BC skating, and even past skating students from Manitoba sent letters of support.
“The letters received for her nomination are all so very moving and weave a story of a lifetime of love and respect for Lis,” said BVSC coach Mandy Paulsen. “It is quite an accomplishment to spend her entire life dedicated to this sport that she so clearly loves and we are so happy that so many people support her and honour her.”
The Skate Canada Awards Ceremony was held on May 6, with seven-time Canadian champion, World and Olympic bronze medalist Tracy Wilson and Skate Canada executive director Ted Barton announcing the award.
Iannone started skating competitively at the age of 10 in a small military community outside of Brandon. As an 18-year-old skater in Flin Flon, Lis was the sole coach for five years of a club of 500 kids, and built one of the most successful clubs in northern Manitoba. Iannone then moved to Gold River where she was head coach for a year before moving to Greater Trail, when Dell came to play for the Smoke Eaters. The family took a four year sabbatical, living in a small community in northern Italy, where she started a figure skating club that is still going today, 31 years later.
“This was not a job for Lis, this was a passion never about herself or the parents but always about the countless number of kids that she has taught over the 46 years as a professional skating coach,” wrote her husband in a letter to SkateCanada. “Everyone was treated the same and were made to feel an important part of the team, I stress team as Lis always stressed that her clubs were teams not individuals.”
As students and parent-volunteers come and go, Iannone has been a fixture at the Beaver Valley Arena for four decades, stitching costumes, running bottle drives, and recruiting new skaters, and her love for skating and her students has helped the BVSC grow and thrive.
“The Beaver Valley Skating Club is very lucky to have had Lis as their head coach for 40 years and the Club has thrived under her leadership,” added Paulsen. “Her experience and knowledge and caring are the reasons BVSC Club is still going strong today.”
Iannone is an NCCP Level 3 coach, and, in addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award, she has been honoured with the Community Sports Hero Award in 2013, the Frank Nowasad Memorial Volunteer Coach Award, and the 2007 BC/Yukon Section and National Club and Recreation Coach Award.
“Thank you for nominating me for submitting and for collecting the support letters on my behalf,” said Iannone. “It is such an honour to receive this award. Thank you for the recognition of my dedication to the sport I love, it is very much appreciated.”