Coach Earl Celesta - recipient of recognition during National Coaches Week.

Coach Earl Celesta - recipient of recognition during National Coaches Week.

Valley Voices: Earl Celesta recognized during National Coaches Week

In recognition of National Coaches Week in British Columbia and across Canada events have been held across the country to celebrate coaching and provide coaches with the recognition they deserve. From Sept. 19-27, a number of coaches were recognized for the integral role they play. One such coach is Chu Chua resident Earl Celesta, recognized by ISPARC (Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council) for his coaching efforts with youth in the B.C. Interior Region.

Celesta says he was surprised to be thanked, but he very much appreciates the recognition.

Celesta is a member of the Simpcw First Nation, and grew up in Chu Chua with parents Eddie and Louisa Celesta.

He says sports were always part of the Celesta family lifestyle and he embraced all of the competitions with enthusiasm, especially playing ball.

“I come from a long line of ball players,” said Celesta, “My family played ball most of their lives and my dad also coached ball. I’ve done other sports, like basketball, but ball just kind of stuck. It was something I excelled in. In my younger years I played in the BC Summer Games and Team BC. Then as I got older I played on two B.C. teams in two of the Native North American Aboriginal Indigenous Games ”

Celesta is an all season athlete, and spends the winter months coaching First Nations youth snowboard teams.

“I got involved to begin with as a volunteer parent when my son was only nine years old at the time,” said Celesta, “Then once I got involved I did a bunch of coordinating things, and then they asked me if I wanted to become a coach. I said yes, and have now been coaching snowboarding for six years.”

In total, he’s been working with young people snowboarding on Tod Mountain at Sun Peaks for at least nine years. The snowboarding program is a Simpcw initiative and runs under the First Nations Snowboard Team Sun Peaks, a new society started in 2019-2020.

We struggled a bit to get started,” said the coach, “We had about 35 to 36 riders, mainly because of the COVID restrictions, so it took a bit of time to get going, but it’s coming along good now.”

Celesta notes the snowboard program requires a strong commitment for both coaches and participants.

“Participants range from 10 to 18 years old, they have to fill out an application, and if there are 10 ride days you have to commit to nine of those days unless you are ill or something. Snowboard team riders also have to sign a contract that they will stay healthy. So they have to do some kind of other sport, or they have to do a training program once a week at least. They are also expected to be representatives on the mountain as well as in school, and they have to get good grades, not drink, smoke, vape, or consume energy drinks.”

The First Nations Snowboard Team Sun Peaks participants come from a large area that includes; Simpcw, Merritt, Adams Lake, Kamloops, Neskonlith, and the Skeetchestn Deadman’s Creek area.

How many participants are in the snowboard program?

“Right now we are topped out at around 50,” said Celesta, “We have 50 riders, 10 coaches, and we go from beginner right up to high performance levels. High performance is more of a select group out of the older riders, they do an extra day of training and are usually up there on the mountain almost every day that they can.”

The coach says he stays busy all year. When winter sports slow down the ball fields wake up.

“I do a lot of stuff with softball, and in Barriere as well. About six years ago I got asked by Barriere Minor Ball’s Phil Ransome to coach a team out of Barriere, and I’ve now been stuck with them for six years,” said Celesta with a smile.

“I coach the U-17 Barriere Chiefs and I just have a blast with them, they’re really, really good, and we have played in the Boys Provincials two years in a row here in Barriere. We took the name from my own personal family team, which is the Chu Chua Chiefs. The kids actually wanted to use that logo, and it was pretty cool for us to let that happen.

The coach says a tough part about coaching softball is the fact that Barriere has the only boys softball team in the Interior south.

“The big thing in being from a small town is our kids play a lot of different sports, but it does tend to overlap on the times which makes it hard to keep them going.”

The U-17 Barriere Chiefs is made up of players from all over the Barriere area and is not limited to Indigenous players only. “They’re actually a mixed team with seven boys and six girls, and with the team being in a boys league the girls have to play against the boys.”

Does Earl Celesta still enjoy coaching ball after so many years?

“I enjoy it a lot. I’ve been coaching the Barriere Chiefs now for awhile. Sometimes we have a wild time on the field – it’s pretty awesome – I wouldn’t trade them for any other players. I’ll be here as long as they need me to keep coaching for sure.

“If anyone needs to find me I am probably at a ball field.”

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