Sportsperson of the year: Rhodes follows in father’s footsteps

A Montrose native is one of those special few volunteers, who has never known what it is like to not give back to his community.

A Montrose native is one of those special few volunteers, who has never known what it is like to not give back to his community, whether it be in Greater Trail, Alert Bay, or Pine Point, N.W.T.

Richard Rhodes, has always been involved in some facet of sport, competing, coaching, or a member of the executive –  however, he wasn’t expecting his most recent 2012 Kiwanis Sportsmen of the Year honour.

“I was surprised when Peter (Thiessen) called, I thought this is never going to happen to me,” said Rhodes. “I thought maybe just one in the family was enough.”

Indeed, Richard’s father Ned recieved the honour in 1979 for his volunteer work as a tennis and badminton coach, something Richard also excelled at while growing up.

His travels with the Bank of Commerce took Rhodes to remote places such as Alert Bay, Yellowknife and Pine Point, but wherever he went he always took his badminton racket and would devote his time to coaching youth in these communities.

When Rhodes returned to Greater Trail his two daughters Shannon and Erin would lead him into Youth Bowling and skiing, and when the pair first showed an interest in softball, the retired Teck worker’s life would take a sharp turn down the base path.

“Brian (Pipes) and I recognized there was no girls or women’s softball around at the time,” said Rhodes. “So four of us got together and decided to start a league.”

In 1985 Rhodes helped start the Lower Columbia Girls’ Softball League, consisting of 16 teams, divided into two separate age groups.

In 1987, his midget girls team’s debut at the B.C. Championship won gold, and in 1989 Rhodes led his team to a silver medal at the Canada Summer Games.

“It’s still going today, and we’ve got everyone from Salmo to Castlegar and all the communities in between playing.”

Rhodes also helped organize the Thunder FastPitch program for girls 14 and under in 2000. The competitive program soon led to the league’s greatest accomplishment in 2004, when Rhodes coached his 12 and under team to the Pacific Northwest Region championship and a berth in the World Series, a first ever for a Canadian team.

“We worked at coaching them,” said Rhodes. “I mean I’ve never played a game of softball in my life. Everything I learned about softball, I learned from Brian and watching and working with him, and eventually getting confident enough to teach along with him.”

For Rhodes, the satisfaction of seeing his daughters and other athletes reach their potential in sport, receive athletic scholarships, win national championships, and continue to grow and excel as adults, is the highlight of his many years in sport. It’s also what still keeps him teaching young athletes at the youthful age of 75.

“We do it for the love of the game . . . and for us, we really enjoy seeing the kids achieve, that’s where we get our kicks out of it now.”

Join Rhodes at the Kiwanis Sportsperson of the Year banquet at the Riverbelle Saturday. Call Peter Thiessen at 368-3581 for tickets, and for more information.