For 40-year coach Don Roy, wrestling is all about life lessons.
Don and Coralee live in Houston, where he coaches a small group of wrestlers at Houston Secondary School. He also commutes to Smithers and coaches the 12-student club there.
Don grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, and wrestled through high school and while studying forestry at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.
Don says his university coach Gord Garvey was really formative for him.
Coach Garvey required his wrestlers to help wrestling programs develop in surrounding areas, so Don got a lot of experience coaching, training wrestlers and running tournaments.
Don says the mentality of giving back to the sport stayed with him.
In Thunder Bay, Don also met and married his wife Coralee.
After graduating from Lakehead, Don got a job in Regina, Saskatchewan, as a Provincial Wrestling Coach.
But after three years there, Don chose to pursue forestry rather than end up in an athletic office.
In 1980, he and Coralee moved to Prince George where he became a forestry supervisor.
Since both had been involved in wrestling, Don and Coralee chose to stay involved in the sport.
Don was coach for several local schools and in 1989 five of his students became provincial champions.
Coralee coordinated tournaments and was Canada’s head pairing master for year, Don said.
Besides high school tournaments, she coordinated Northern Games, BC Games, Wrestling Zones and she was instrumental in keeping wrestling in the Northern Winter Games.
“She’s been a pairing master in everything except the Olympics,” he said.
In 2004, Don and Coralee moved to Houston, where he worked as Harvesting Supervisor at Canfor.
With his friend Mike Richey running the wrestling program in Smithers, Don got involved there right away, and eventually took over as head coach when Richey retired.
Now retired himself, Don also started coaching a small group of Houston wrestlers at HSS twice a week.
He coached Houston’s 2014 Provincial Champion Leilah Wiebe and 2015 Champion Rebecca Ells.
Don says that to be a world-class wrestler “you need to have the strength of a weight lifter, the flexibility of a gymnast, and the mind of a chess master.”
But to do well in wrestling at other levels, the real key is “work ethic and heart.”
Don says it’s more about mental training and mastering strategies that work for you, than it is about athleticism and body type. It requires and develops good work ethic, and fighting individually makes wrestlers take full responsibility for wins and losses.
It’s the life lessons that Don values most about wrestling.
“Wrestling is not easy. It’s hard, you work hard and get banged around,” he said.
“It is a great sport for kids because it teaches them how to fail, because they’re going to lose matches no matter how good they are. They learn that it’s okay to try their hardest and not be successful. It is not the end of the world… it’s going to be alright because they’re going to learn from it and get better. That’s a very valuable life lesson,” he said.
Wrestling is “a great sport.”