Looking back on 14 years of volunteer high school football coaching Martin Jaunzemis says it all boils down to prowling the sidelines in search of “digger’s gold.”
“I guess you could say I was passionate and dedicated,” Jaunzemis reflects.
“I tried to instill the belief in my players that in the end you do not have to necessarily be the best or most gifted as long as you are willing to outwork the other guy. Then, more often than not, you will be successful.”
The former SFU Clansmen offensive linesman says: “Many years ago, I happened to have a game of squash against Rick Klassen of the BC Lions. After a hard fought point, Rick said two words “diggers gold.” Those two words and who they came from taught me a lot.”
Ironically, after Jaunzemis started coaching the Timberline Wolves he found himself digging for something not quite as glamorous as a glimmer of gold in a rising gridiron star. He was literally digging for manure.
In 1998, when Jaunzemis joined the coaching staff the team was short of everything … pads, sleds, even a score clock.
Mirror reporter Paul Rudan, who coached alongside Jaunzemis for several years, recalls: “Martin came up with the idea of selling folks manure for their gardens. It was way better than selling them something they didn’t need like chocolate covered almonds and the team made a lot of money.”
The manure was bagged at the former UBC experimental farm in Oyster River and in one year netted the team about $12,000.
Rudan remembers Coach Martin as a dedicated volunteer who “spent countless hours working behind the scenes developing plays, attending meetings … doing stuff no one saw.”
Timberline Principal Kevin Harrison says: “We all appreciate Martin’s passion for the game and the team. Several of his players went on to senior levels of football in university and college with scholarships. I appreciate how he was able to work with me to leverage football as a way of getting the boys to keep their grades up.”
That gets a chuckle out of Jaunzemis. “I spent more time in the principal’s office as a coach than I ever did as a student,” he says.
On Jaunzemis’ watch the team did very well.
In 2002 it played in the Triple A semi-finals against Vancouver College in BC Place Stadium and in 2009 the Wolves won the Tier Two Championship against Burnaby’s Moscrop Secondary even though there were barely enough players to field a full squad.
“I’m proud of the job I and the other coaches did bringing the program to where it was. We built a pretty good program. I liked to watch what football offered those kids in the way of a life experience.
“We weren’t just teaching kids to play football, we were teaching them how to be team players and how to make decisions to get further on in their lives as they progressed beyond football into the real world,” Jaunzemiss says.
When the Wolves play at home next on Oct. 27 there will be a half time ceremony to recognize Jaunzemis and his coaching legacy.
One of the mementos that will be presented to the retired coach will be a framed letter from Farhan Lalji, president of the B.C. Secondary School Football Association.
Lalji’s letter states: “Thanks for the time you have committed to making our sport grow in Campbell River. Running a football program is not easy … in a smaller region where the coaching and financial pool is often thin. But it is in these areas where football and the life lessons that come from it are more needed.
You have impacted many lives and had plenty of successes on the field and off. Thanks for your passion and commitment.”