Gary Banting may not be a mountain of a man, but at the very least he is a foothill. And if you were to line up five individuals, including the 50-year-old Banting and ask someone to pick out the volleyball coach, he wouldn’t be the first pick.
But Tuesday night the Waterdown District High School coach and teacher was the first choice and stood tall as a mountain in accepting the Wismer Award for High School Coaching Excellence. Banting becomes the third recipient of the award named in honour of the late John Wismer, who during a 33-year career in education devoted two decades to coaching high school athletes.
The award recognizes not only the commitment the recipient makes to student athletes on the playing fields but what he or she does to help make student athletes a complete person in and out of school and into their adult lives. Wismer is remembered for encouraging student athletes to do the best they could not only in sports but also in their lives after school. The award is presented annually to an active coach in Hamilton’s public and Catholic school systems who makes significant contributions to the overall development of student athletes.
Joining Banting at the Wismer Foundation’s third annual golf tournament and awards presentation were the four other finalist for this year’s award – Anthony Herrington of Sherwood Secondary, Marc Kovacs of Cardinal Newman, Mike Smith of Dundas Highland, and Bob Wynne of Ancaster High School. George Knill, who received the first award in 2004, and Antionette Krusto, last year’s recipient, were also on hand for the presentation at the Carlisle Golf and Country Club.
Banting, who has been teaching and coaching for 25 years, was a finalist when Knill and Krusto accepted the hardware. Tuesday night the spotlight found him. The father of three actually started his high school coaching career when he was a student.
“When I was in Grade 13 I helped coach a volleyball team,” noted the one-time Barrie Colts junior B hockey player and baseball player who was born in Aliston. “I was a 6-3, 178-pound defenseman. I wasn’t going anywhere (in hockey). I knew that when I hung up my cleats and skates, I was going to coach. I knew I wanted to work with kids.” While he teaches them skills of the games, Banting said he also tries to get then to appreciate all levels of athletics. “Hopefully, they will move on to become coaches themselves.”
Although he has also coached boys hockey at Waterdown, his first passion is volleyball, a sport he played during his days at the University of Toronto. In the 16 years he has coached girls V-ball at Waterdown, his teams have won seven city championships and taken home five Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations medals: gold in 2003 and 2004, silver in 2005 and this year, and bronze in 2001. He was also largely responsible for the formation of the Waterdown Warriors, a rep volleyball club.
But the Wismer Award for Coaching Excellence is about more than championships and medals. In coaching Waterdown athletes, Banting has exposed them to different cultures and ways of life through international trips he has arranged for his teams.
Their passports have been stamped in Cuba, Russia, Finland, Dominican Republic, and the U.S.
Last night’s presentation dinner was attended by about 200 and followed a day of golf played in a wet conditions. Plans are already underway for next year’s presentation dinner on Sept. 11. Information about the Wismer Foundation, its coaching excellence award, and the Wismer Academic Excellence Award (given to a graduating Barton student) is available at www.wismerfoundation.org. Alex Barnett was the recipient of the 4th Barton award which was presented earlier at a school ceremony.
The other big winner Tuesday night was Don Wilson. The Laurier Golden Hawks quarterback coach won three raffle draws including a bicycle. As someone noted to Wilson, “You may have used up all Laurier’s wins.”