His service to the community was recognized before Friday night’s Amherst Regional High School Vikings hockey game at Amherst Stadium.
“Each year, YMCA’s across Canada celebrate acts of peace by recognizing individuals and groups who, without any special circumstances, resources, status, wealth or position, have demonstrated a commitment to building peace within their community,” said, Jeff MacNeil, manager of development at the Cumberland YMCA. “Tonight we are presenting the Peace Medallion to coach Darrell Cole, who has been nominated by Landon Clarke and fellow peace recipient Thane MacAloney.
Cole currently helps coach the Vikings, and he was getting water bottles ready on the bench while MacNeil was talking over the PA system.
Cole said he was taken by surprise.
“They started talking about minor hockey, then little league and I think they mentioned the last two years of the Cubs, and I said ‘geez that might be me,’” said Cole. “The boys started chuckling, and then I heard my name. I was just hoping I didn’t fall flat on my butt walking across the ice.”
Cole has been a volunteer in youth sports for 33 years, 23 in Amherst and 10 years in his hometown of Kensington, P.E.I.
Cole first came to Amherst to work as a reporter and is now the managing editor of the Amherst News and the Citizen-Record.
“He’s a guy who came here on a work contract and was supposed to stay only a year or two and he has spent the last 23 years in Amherst,” said Amherst’s Dr. Brian Ferguson.
About time Cole recognized, said Ferguson
“In the time he’s been here he’s reported on everything about other people, and the fact the YMCA recognized him for such a prestigious award, I think, is justice,” said Ferguson. “To have a young man so involved with kids with an impeccable record says something. It’s about time we step back and look at what this guy has accomplished.”
Cole won four provincial championships while coaching baseball with Ferguson, one Little League Canada provincial title playing in the New Brunswick league, two Nova Scotia Bantam A provincial titles, and one Nova Scotia Bantam AA provincial title.
Dealing with kids
“We’re not talking just four good years in baseball with me, we’re talking multiple years, and he remembers kids,” said Ferguson
Cole coached Ferguson’s boys over those championship years.
“Darrell has an amazing memory. He can tell you how my kid did in the bottom of seventh inning with that smash over the field, and tell you who the pitcher was.”
Ferguson also said Cole knows how to deal with kids.
“When it comes to the psychology of the game Darrell Cole can take any kid and pick him up,” said Ferguson. “I’d say to Darrell, ‘this kid is not producing, go talk to him.’ He’d talk to him and say, ‘Doc, it’s all right. Put him in.’ He doesn’t have a psychology degree he just has an innate ability with kids.”
Cole says kids have changed over the years.
“There was a time when the coach’s word was final and you weren’t questioned,” said Cole. “Now you have to explain things. You have to be open and fair and honest with the kids, and you have to give them respect, because if you don’t give them respect they’re not going to give you respect.
Dealing with adults
Cole also knows how to talk to adults with ruffled feathers.
“He was always the diplomat. We’d get in trouble in ball fields because I could sometimes be a little too loud,” said Ferguson. “Darrell would walk over and sweet-talk the umpire and prevent me from getting kicked out.”
Cole said adults have changed over the years as well, especially with regards to parental expectations.
“I’ve been fortunate to have good parents over the years, but some have really high expectations for the kids.” said Cole. “There’s been the odd parent I haven’t seen eye-to-eye with, but for the most part, here in Amherst, parents are good.”
As most people know, many people, especially young people, would be more than happy to take on the responsibility of coaching, if they didn’t have to deal with parents.
Cole said it's not too bad in Amherst, "But in some places it gets bad for young people coaching, refereeing and umpiring. The beefs they take from parents and spectators can get bad.”
Ferguson is proud to call Cole a friend
Cole has become a close family friend with the Ferguson’s, and Ferguson, who came from Cape Breton almost 30 years ago, said, “He’s an addition to the community that’s more valuable than me as a doctor.”
“When you have a young man willing to dedicate his life to kids who aren’t his, male or female, make them feel welcome, make them feel part of the crowd and, at the same time, encourage them to play sports and to do better, and to do those inspirational talks when a kid is down and out, is amazing,” said Ferguson.
Cole said coaching keeps him feeling young
Besides winning four provincial baseball titles with Ferguson, Cole has also won a provincial hockey title in the Peewee AA Division.
“Terry Crowe and I were coaches in the 2001-2002 season. We beat North Sidney in the final,” said Cole.
Cole has had several teams lose in the provincial championship game, but, win or lose; he said that, along with Crowe, he has worked with many great coaches in both baseball and hockey, including the coaches who coached him when he was a kid in Kensington.
“My coaches always taught me to give something back, and they were guys who got along well with kids too, so I think I learned a lot from them,” said Cole.
He said he got into coaching hockey when he was a teenager because he sucked as a hockey player.
He also said he used to be a rough coach who wanted to win all the time. It appears he’s mellowed.
“I don’t think we’re preparing kids for the Major Leagues or the NHL, we’re just trying to give them life skills,” said Cole. “Things like respect, teamwork, friendship, and doing what they can to win, like being dedicated and committed, are important. They learn a lot of things in sports they will use in their lives.”
Cole said he will keep coaching as long as he’s having fun.
“It’s something I enjoy doing. Working with the kids sort of helps me feel young,” said Cole. “Winning is still fun but I enjoy being around the kids because I always find something to laugh about.”
Most recent recipients of the peace award include, Dave Galloway, 2014; Francine Robichaud, 2014; Daren White, 2013; and Sonny Foster, Thane McAloney and Carolyn Cooke in 2013.
Cole said it’s an honour to be mentioned in their company.
“Look at a guy like Sonny Foster,” said Cole. “To get an award that Sonny Foster got is pretty special because not many people are more dedicated to their community than Sonny.”