By David Anderson
My claim to fame is being the brother of Alan Anderson, coach of the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team.
Our father had a saying – actually never verbalized, just the way he lived his life. It was “if it matters, it can be made.”
If you’ve even dined at a Ram Restaurant, chances are suspended above you there will be a restored eight-man plus coxswain wooden rowing shell complete with 12-foot sweep oars. Our dad was in large measure responsible, both here and in Ram-owned restaurants across the country, for those shells being there.
The oars were harder to come by than the shells. In calling around the country, when our dad heard that Oregon State University had 24 shafts but no blades he had them shipped anyway. In the shop he took a thin piece of scrap cedar, added to it, and five hours of sanding later there was an exact replica of the missing blade.
Somewhere in America these examples of dad’s handiwork are on display.
That’s because “if it mattered, it could be made.”
The same was true when it came to family – my brother, sister and I mattered to dad and mom. That’s why they were my brother’s and my scoutmaster and den leader, and baseball coach. Community mattered so dad and mom made sure there were a merry-go-round and a slide for kids in the park.
This “if it matters it can be made” philosophy has guided my brother the last ten years of his life in dedicating most every waking moment to ensure Gig Harbor youth have every opportunity to succeed in life – let alone stand on the local, national and world stage in the canoe and kayaking sport – because they matter, and the kind of work ethic it takes to compete on the water applies to everything else they will do.
Gig Harbor is two-time national champion and will compete for a third in a row this coming year in Georgia. In preparing nine-to-eighteen year-olds to compete, Gig Harbor has placed representatives of the United States at the Junior World’s Championships. Two of their athletes that began with the program when just 12-years-old are now being trained in the Olympic Training Facility in Oklahoma City to represent America on the international stage.
When Gig Harbor literally first made a splash on the national scene, people Google Earthed Gig Harbor to see where it was. Now all athletes in the canoe and kayaking world know. Back then, during a slide show of their accomplishments, the screen goes dark and the question – in white, bold letters – scrolls across: ‘People ask why Gig Harbor is so good?’
And then the answer: ‘Because we train in the winter. And we have Alan as our coach.’
And all this has been done without a boathouse.
Our dad also had a saying: “use the tool for its intended purpose.”
Coach Alan, my brother, has used all the tools at his disposal to make what matters for these youth.
But there’s a tool he needs to complete the project that he does not possess.
Perhaps you, as a reader, would want to join the team by helping to build a boathouse for future generations of youth. The facility envisioned would be designed to include what would become the first Para-canoe training center for disabled athletes in the country.
Because “if it matters, it can be made.”