Most who knew Vern Henry knew him
as “Grumpy” because of the sour expression that he always had on
his face. However, “grumpy” wasn’t who he was. Vern Henry was a
people person. Kids and sport were his priorities in life and
he loved both. So much so that Vern was known and liked by all,
parents and children alike, that frequented the Wetaskiwin arena and
Coach of young Wetaskiwin
fastball and hockey players
Henry’s participation in sport began when he was a child. He enjoyed
all sports but his real loves were hockey, fastball and curling.
As a young man in Winnipeg, Vern committed his time to playing his
favourite sports and he took an active role in organizing many events.
It was his love of sport and
involvement with community that started Vern in his coaching career.
Vern's other love was children and he enjoyed kids of all ages. He
had an uncanny ability to communicate with them at their level. He
saw all children as "little people: that should be treated with respect.
To Vern, their thoughts and opinions had real value.
Vern started coaching girl’s fastball
and boy’s hockey. His commitment to coaching kids became so engrained
that as his wife Joan puts it, “He was never home. He always had a
practice or a game.” Vern and Joan moved to Wetaskiwin in 1976 and as
Joan remembers it, we hadn’t even been living here two weeks and Vern
came home one night and said “Well, Honey, I’m coaching again.”
“Teach them the game so they can enjoy it,
they will decide if they want to win or lose.”
For the next twenty years Vern
committed himself to coaching different minor softball, fastball, and
hockey programs in Wetaskiwin for boys and girls. Vern coached from
Peewee up to Bantam and then later on he coached Midget fastball. Vern
had a reputation for knowing every rule of fastball and hockey. Because
of this he was often referred to as a "walking rulebook’".
Vern’s philosophy about coaching was
simple “teach them the game so they can enjoy it, they will decide if
they want to win or lose”. For Vern it was all about the kids and it
was about having fun. Vern used to say, “If they didn’t have fun they
wouldn’t stay, and then what would be the point of that?” Vern wasn’t
just a coach. He cared about each and every one of his players and
their personal well being.
When coaching Vern’s had "Three
Trademark Rules” for his teams:
Vern instilled a quality of respect in
all his players. He had no tolerance for disrespectful people or
players that criticized their teammates or friends. Vern was a strong
believer in positive reinforcement and this showed in the kids he
coached. Vern used to say that “People know when they have made a
mistake, there is no need to remind them.” The qualities, character and
moral fibre that Vern instilled in his players, by their own admission,
changed the lives of many for the better.
Lifetime of active involvement
with sports in his community.
Vern was a supporter and defender of
anything that had to do with Wetaskiwin sports or community events. He
would always find a way to get involved whether it be as a coach, a
manager, a driver to shuttle kids to and from games and practices, or,
at the community level, raising money and awareness for an event. Vern
committed his help in whatever way he could. In 1993 Vern volunteered
his time to helping to organizing the fastball competition for the
Alberta Summer Games in Wetaskiwin and to also assist with coaching
duties for the local team. Until he passed away Vern was a volunteer
with the Wetaskiwin Curling Club.
Those that knew Vern Henry knew him as
this outwardly gruff and very outspoken man with a hidden soft spot for
kids. We can recall a scene that sums up who Vern Henry was"
At a local girl’s fastball game
where Vern was coaching, a fan in the crowd yelled out at Vern, “Hey
why don’t you smile once in a while?" To which Vern replied in his
gruff adamant tone, “They don’t pay me to smile!” as he turned and
cracked a wink to his team sitting in the dugout.