"Don't thank me, I just work here," said a humble Rick Kapala when he received the prestigious Jack Simpson Dedicated Coaches Award at the 34th annual Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Game Dinner and Auction. The event was held Saturday at the Sun Valley Inn Limelight Room.
The award honors foundation past or present coaches who best exemplify its values. It's also one of the highlights of the annual benefit evening.
Kapala said he had no idea he was receiving the recognition despite the many out-of-town colleagues and friends who attended the dinner.
The Elephant's Perch store owner Bob Rosso presented a history of Kapala's accomplishments as a Nordic coach who came from the Midwest in 1987. Rosso said thousands of kids have been coached in Kapala's 30-plus years of coaching at the foundation. Athletes include junior and senior national champions, former athletes who became coaches and Olympians.
In addition, Rosso said thousands of letters were sent to him honoring Kapala's achievement. Kapala has been U.S. Ski Association Nordic coach of the year three times, and the ski foundation's Nordic program under his direction has been named USSA Club of the Year three times.
"It's not our program," Kapala said. "It's the community's."
Kapala said the number of kids participating in the Nordic program has been growing steadily for 10 years.
"We're teaching kids to be self-directed and motivated so they are not dependent on people telling them what to do," he said in an interview. "There are a lot of life lessons associated with athletes. Showing up and consistency are really important."
Kapala said to the benefit attendees, who stood several times in his honor, that if you can't build a good Nordic ski program in Sun Valley, there's a problem.
The sold-out event with 309 guests had over 300 local businesses contribute to silent and live auction items, raffle items and balloon ticket sales. In addition, 205 people volunteered at the event, which included many ski foundation kids. An online auction received 500 bids.
The ski foundation has been supporting youth winter sports in the Wood River Valley for 45 years.
Sabina Dana Plasse: email@example.com