Longtime Elgin Park Secondary basketball coach Rick Weidmann may be turning in his whistle and retiring after more than 22 years at the school, but his last name will linger in the hallways just a little while longer.
That’s because two of his four children – son Greg and daughter Andrea – are now themselves teachers at the school. Over the course of a 45-minute discussion with a reporter in his second-floor classroom, both pop in a for a few minutes to say hello, ask a question, or borrow a set of keys or a textbook.
As well, the school’s alumni basketball game has been christened the Weidmann Cup. At this year’s game, he was given a banner with his name on it, alongside the number 93.
“It’s bittersweet – I’ve been here since Day 1, in ’93,” Weidmann said, talking about the final chapter of his own teaching and coaching career, which began 34 years ago at Johnston Heights Secondary, and included six years at Earl Marriott, before transferring to Elgin Park the year that it opened.
“It’s been a long time, and I’ve done a bit of everything – coached some volleyball, some track, some soccer.”
In recent years, he’s been at the helm of the Orcas’ senior girls hoops team.
But no matter the sport he’s coaching – or if he’s in the classroom, teaching history – Weidmann said he has always tried to impart to his students the importance of hard work.
And when it comes to espousing such values, the 57-year-old Ocean Park resident has excellent influences from which to draw – his own parents, who emigrated from Germany more than 60 years ago.
“They were a huge motivation for me, learning about work ethic,” he explained of his 97-year-old mother, Herta, and father, August, who is about to turn 104.
“My dad was in the war, and he was in a Russian prison camp for five years and barely survived. My mom had to sneak out of East Germany.
“They met in Germany, then got separated because of the war, and they hadn’t seen each other for about seven years when they (reconnected) here in Canada. My mom basically showed up here with nothing – they gave her $10 and a train ticket from Halifax to Regina.”
Eventually, the pair would move to B.C., where they started careers – Weidmann’s dad became a successful carpenter – and raised a family. Their struggles, and the way they persevered, are not lost on their son.
“As a teacher, that’s my thing – I’ve sort of been a storyteller. I tell the kids all these stories from my parents, and their friends – all these stories I heard growing up,” he explained. “You work for what you get, and I always transfer those lessons to sports.”
Weidmann played basketball as a high schooler – he was cut from his Grade 8 team before sprouting up to six-foot-six and making the senior squad as a junior-aged player just two years later – and played at Douglas College and UBC, as well, before graduating and taking his first job at Johnston Heights.
And, after more than 30 years coaching, Weidmann said the basketball team he coached in his very first year was one of the most memorable. The team was made up of entirely Grade 9s, he said, so playing in a league chock full of Grade 10 competition, the wins were hard to come by. But they stuck with it, and came back the next year and were among the top four in the province, he said.
“It was tougher to (make it to provincials) back then, because only a few teams made it out of the Valley, but that was a really good team. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t, and other times you’ll make it to the provincials with a team you never thought you’d get there,” he said.
Weidmann is especially proud of his latest team – which he’d coached for five years, since Grade 8.
“Great group of kids, great group of parents,” he said. “They’re a special group and they’ll always hold a special place in my heart – all the kids who I’ve coached will.”
Weidmann considered retiring after last year, but the provincewide teachers’ strike left something of a bad taste in his mouth and he decided he didn’t want his final year on the job to be marred by labour strife.
The decision to return paid off, and Weidmann got the exit he wanted – with a return trip to the provincial championships, where they finished 14th.
And though the Orcas were knocked out of contention early – they lost their first game – Weidmann said there were other highlights worth celebrating.
“We had a couple girls who had only scored, like, one basket (all season). So after we lost that first game at provincials, I told the team our new goal was to get so-and-so a basket. We ran like eight plays in a row to get her one,” he said.
“She worked hard all year and she deserved it. And when she got that basket, the other girls were even happier than she was. That was a really cool moment.”
It’s moments like that – connecting with his students, and making a difference – that he’ll miss the most, he admitted.
In retirement, Weidmann said he plans to travel a bit with his wife of 31 years, Wendy, while also helping some of his children with some home renovations. He also has his parents – who live in Cloverdale – to look after, he added.
And there remains, too, the slight chance he could one day return to the sidelines of a basketball court.
“Maybe I’ll come back and help out with the Grade 8 team, just to keep my hand in it,” he said.
His daughter, Andrea, laughs at the idea of her father coming out of retirement before he’s even officially entered into it.
“You can’t come back and coach – mom will kill you,” she laughed.