Outgoing Gig Harbor Kayak and Canoe coach Alan Anderson has plenty of accolades to hang his hat on. He started the club with two kids in 2002, one of them being his son. Now, the club is booming, with about 50 kids, four national titles and the respect of clubs all over the United States, and even in various parts of the world.
In this week’s centerpiece story, I looked at how Anderson’s love of adventure translated into teaching and coaching, and passing that love of adventure onto others. Therein lies the real victory here. Anderson is certainly proud of the national titles he accumulated while coaching the club, and is proud of the kids who won those titles. But what he’s most proud of is the connections that he’s made with the kids, and the lives he has positively impacted.
That’s what makes him a valuable asset to the community.
Wins and losses come and go, but the lessons of hard work, perseverance, never giving up — those are the types of things that can last a lifetime. It might sound trite, but it’s true. And Anderson knows it is.
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I asked him if he might stay involved with the club, to some degree.
“It’s hard to say,” he told me. “I don’t know how I’ll be able to stay away. I might want to come down and work with a 12-year-old and teach them how to dream.”
He trailed off, not wanting to come off as overly-dramatic. But teaching kids to dream is exactly what he did in his tenure as the coach of the club. This club was nothing when it was founded 14 years ago. It was two kids, a couple kayaks, and a father who wanted to pass on his love of the sport. But the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team became much more than that. The club has won four national titles in a row and is showing no signs of slowing down.
It’s a very real lesson — and one that the kids might not fully appreciate yet — that with their hard work, they went from being an underdog squad to the nation’s best club in a short time. All those days out on the water, all the training they did, and the vision that was put in place helped the kids achieve their dream of becoming national champions.
Now, the club sends paddlers to various competitions all over the worlds, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before it produces a homegrown Olympic athlete. The club figures to be in good hands with full-time high-performance head coach Holm Schmidt, who joined the team in 2012.
When coaches are winning games or competitions, that’s great. But when coaches are personally invested in the growth and well-being of student-athletes, that’s when a real positive impact is made. The club represents the city of Gig Harbor all over the world, positively and with great effort. It’s something that all Gig Harbor residents can be proud of. Anderson’s impact in the community will be felt for years to come.