WHITE ROCK, BC - Our latest BC Rugby First XV Volunteer spent much of his summer pitch side with the TrueBlue Under-17 men's provincial team. Just weeks after wrapping up his role with the program, Don Wright is now back in the thick of it for the Fall club season, serving as assistant coach for the Bayside under-18 men's team.
A Semiahmoo graduate and proud Bayside Athletic Association member, Wright has been volunteering for over 30 years and has spent much of the last decade helping develop his club's youth rugby programs.
His most recent position saw him manage the U17 provincial side for over two months as the team held trials in June, competed in the PRCs in July and then went to Nationals in August.
"Don was the lynch pin for pulling our guys together," said BC U17 head coach Curry Hitchborn. "He constantly went out of his way to make certain that the guys on our team worked together in everything. He jumped at the chance to manage our team and didn't miss a beat all year. Both coaches [Andy Blackburn and I] were spoiled by him as a manager."
We caught up with our latest First XV Volunteer and this is what he had to say…
BC RUGBY: How long have you been involved as a volunteer with rugby? What roles do you currently have?
DON WRIGHT: I have been volunteering with various coaching and executive positions since the early 80s. I just spent the summer as the BC U17 manager and this season I am an assistant coach with the Bayside U18 team.
BC: Why is volunteering important to you and why have you dedicated so many hours to the provincial U17 and Bayside programs?
DW: I have always loved the game, all my friends are involved. We have helped build our club, Bayside, together. I feel a sense of responsibility to keep expanding the game in our area. This summer was the first time I have been involved with BC. It’s not something that I had aspirations of pursuing, but when coaches Curry Hitchborn and Andy Blackburn approached me, it seemed like a perfect fit. It was a challenge, but I enjoy organizing and taking care of business, so that way, the boys only need to worry about playing the game.
BC: What is the secret to balancing so many hours of rugby with your professional life?
DW: It was far more difficult to balance the years I coached at Earl Marriott Secondary because much of the coaching took place during my work hours. Club rugby is no problem. We practice after work, and most of the games are on the weekend. For BC, it was possible due to a very understanding boss and a great group of co-workers. My wife, Tracy, is also the manager of the Bayside U-18s so she was a big help.
BC: Can you tell us a bit about your playing career?
DW: I played basketball and football in high school. When I graduated high school, a bunch of my friends, along with coach Paul Horne, formed Semiahmoo Old Boys. I joined the team in 1981 and played with them until we amalgamated with the Tsawassen RFC in 1987, and formed Bayside AA. I continued playing with Bayside until I retired in 2001.
BC: What positions have you played and which one is your strongest?
DW: I played lock and back row, and, believe it or not, I spent one season playing in the centres.
BC: Have you ever played/coached/volunteered at another rugby club other than Bayside?
DW: I am loyal as they come, I bleed blue and have never strayed far from the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
BC: Who is your favourite Canadian rugby player (ever) ?
DW: Like I said I am a homer, and I have a couple of favourite Canadian players. In the 80’s it was our buddy Mike Tupper who was a stalwart on the Canadian 7s team. He was the first player from our club to represent Canada. My other favourite player is Jon Thiel, who was a fixture in the Canadian front row and a professional player for many years. Even when Jon was at another club or coaching his own boys, Jake and Josh, at our arch rivals ARFC, he would find time to come home and run some scrummaging sessions for me. He’s never forgotten where he started out.
BC: Who is your current favourite rugby player and why?
DW: I have many favourite professional and amateur players, but I enjoy watching my son, Nick, play best. We have had a chance to experience lots of great rugby through the years, from kindergarten mini rugby to U18 National championships. This year, he was fortunate enough to be on the Earl Marriott Secondary team that represented Canada at the Sanix World Youth Tournament in Japan.
BC: Do you see yourself leaving the game of rugby any time soon?
DW: I definitely don’t see myself leaving the game any time soon. It’s a life style and most of our friends are involved in the game. As long as there is a game being played up at the park, I will be up there watching it.
BC: What is your greatest rugby memory either as a player or as a volunteer?
DW: All our tours as players, coaches or parents have all been memorable. I really enjoyed our Old Boys trip to the world cup in New Zealand. It was spectacular! Getting to follow the EMS trip to Japan this year, with such a fun bunch of parents, was a memorable experience. Another rugby highlight was managing the BC team this summer.
BC: Anything else you would like to add?
DW: Thanks for the recognition but you all know we don’t volunteer for the recognition, we do it because we love it. I’d just like to thank all the great volunteers that I have worked with over the years, you have all done an outstanding job and I thank you all!
The First XV Volunteer Appreciation program is an initiative designed to recognize the valuable pillars of our membership that help keep our sport afloat. Each recognized volunteer will be presented with a "thank you" item, a customized BC Rugby Umbrella. Each individual will then receive another 10 thank you BC Rugby travel mugs to show their appreciation to the top 10 volunteers that work alongside them in their club.
First XV Volunteer Recipients:
Mark Aplas (Kats RFC)
Ian Maclean (Castaway Wanderers RFC)
Steph Murphy (United Rugby Club / Fraser Valley Rugby Union/ BC U20)
Ryan McWhinney (Abbotsford RFC / Fraser Valley Rugby Union)
Tere Blake (Vancouver-Fraser Valley Referees Society)
Brad Baker (BC High School Girls Rugby Association / BC U18 / Vancouver U16)
Andy Blackburn (Bayside AA / Fraser Valley Rugby Union / Lower Mainland U17)
John Lyall (Velox RFC / Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
Don Brown (Brit Lions RFC / Delta / BC U14)
Gio Lam (Burnaby Lake Rugby Club / Vancouver East)
Colin Chappell (Comox Kickers RFC / North Vancouver Island Rugby Union)
Jen Ross (Abbotsford RFC / Fraser Valley Rugby Union)