Superintendent of Schools – We are so lucky in RVS to have people step up and volunteer their time, energy and expertise in coaching sports teams, sponsoring clubs, leading student performances or directing bands to name a few. Like many of our students, I too have been positively impacted through the contributions of various coaches. A couple of weeks ago an important coach in my life passed away and I want to share a bit about Lyle Sanderson.
Some of you know that I used to be a sprinter back in “the day”. I started track and field when I hurt my shoulder, limiting my ability to play baseball in the spring of my Grade 10 year. A community volunteer coach from my high school, Brian, convinced me to come out after school to train while I was rehabbing my shoulder. It only took me a few days to realize that it was actually fun. I liked to compete and was naturally pretty quick, so track worked for me. My shoulder was feeling better, but I stuck with the training for track. By Grade 11, I had transitioned over to track from baseball as my primary sport. Over my Grade 11 summer I got to travel across the prairies sprinting and I was hooked. I met for the first time Mr. Lyle Sanderson, long time head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Track and Field team. Lyle was down to earth and an incredibly humble and kind man. Lyle already had built a very strong program at the U of S and trained a number of Olympians. He was a national team coach at numerous Olympics and World Championships, yet he came over to introduce himself to me, a decent Grade 11 sprinter and that made a lasting impression on me.
In Grade 12 I ended up winning the high school 100m provincial championship. One of the first people over to visit and congratulate me was Lyle. He was not putting on a sales pitch to get me to come to the U of S, but rather he was excited for me, a kid from Moose Jaw who only recently started track and was improving. Lyle was just as supportive for the kid from Piapot, SK (where Lyle actually grew up) who finished last. Lyle was just … supportive.
In the fall of 1985, I moved to Saskatoon to run track. Oh yeah, and get a teaching degree. Interestingly enough, Lyle was never my actual event coach. I was lucky to get connected with Ivan, a former sprinter who was a new sprint coach with the Huskies. Lyle was the head coach and coached a different group of athletes. Even with Ivan as my event coach, Lyle was always there. Always positive, supportive and caring. He asked the right questions at the right time. He had the ability to know or see what you needed at that specific time and offer some advice or positive comment. He just had that ability to connect with people. I was not special; Lyle connected with everyone.
For the next five years I spent much of my waking time related to track to field. I was training, racing, socializing with fellow athletes, helping football players with their off-season conditioning, coaching at schools/camps, being a leader on the sports council and anything else related to the sport. I managed to even go to class and get a degree and Lyle had a part of that too!
When we went on road trips for competitions or training camps often Lyle would be there. Lyle loved the time on buses as a time to bond, connect, play cards, tell stories or nap. We would be on a bus, heading to somewhere and when we got close to the track or hotel, then Lyle would get on the bus PA system and always start with two blows into the microphone to ensure the PA was working, “Fff, fff… okay listen up gang.” He ALWAYS started with that. To this day, I will often call a group of people a “gang”.
When I graduated university, I was blessed to still be connected to Lyle through coaching and friendship. Even after I left Saskatoon, I would come back for a week to coach at a camp. I always would run into Lyle at the track and we would have a great chat. We would laugh and remember something that happened on a training trip to LA or when I fell trying to pass the baton to Rogal. Lyle finally retired from the U of S in about 2005 after being the U of S track and field head coach for 39 years. Lyle’s accomplishments include being a member of the University of Saskatchewan Athletic Wall of Fame, the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Track and Field Hall of Fame. He has also represented Canada at the Olympic Games, FISU Games, Commonwealth Games, Pan-American Games and the world track and field championships. He wore the red and white of Canada 54 times. He led the Huskies to 33 Canada West titles and 10 national championships, including the Huskies’ first-ever national title in 1968.
Thanks Lyle for all that you did for me. My thoughts are with your family. Many of Lyle’s athletes will return to Saskatoon this week to be a part of the celebration of his life and contributions.