Karl Vinke, Alumnus, teacher, coach, G.D.H.S.

“It’s hard leaving here,” says Karl Vinke, retiring Phys. Ed and mathematics teacher of Glencoe District High School. Mr. Vinke could never get enough of G.D.H.S. He started Grade Nine in the fall of 1963, exiting to University of Western Ontario in 1968, and graduating from Althouse in the spring of 1973. The following fall, Mr. Vinke was hired by Principal Art Dadd. June 2004 ends his steady commitment to G.D.H.S.: 31 years teaching and coaching.

Coaching and teaching are his passion. He started coaching volleyball in 1977 with one goal: to reach the OFSAA’s (Ontario Federation of Secondary Athletic Association play-offs) in five years. In 1981 and 1982, his senior boys volley ball teams made it, winning a silver and bronze medal. Karl successfully coached many teams including badminton, soccer, basketball, football, track and field. But volley ball is a big sport at G.D.H.S. and volley ball is Karl Vinke’s passion.

Doug Calwell got nostalgic when he heard that Karl was retiring and shared some memories:

I remember the many hours of practice before and after school. I remember travelling many weekends in the fall to tournaments in London, Chatham, Sarnia, well, most of Southwestern Ontario. We piled the whole team in that van and spent some great times with all the guys travelling around the country.

I was always amazed at his patience for us. He never lost faith in his rag tag team of misfits. I really admired that about “Gabe”…

I learned a lot from him. Not in what he actually said, but in his quiet leadership. He showed a lot of faith in me and I tried not to let him down. I learned a lot about leadership and self-esteem in the times I spent with him. I learned about having vision and goals, and working hard to get to where you want to go.

Doug Calwell played in the 1970s before G.D.H.S. went on to the OFSAA provincial competitions. This was the group of boys who went through high school calling Karl “Gabe” after Gabe Kotter, the popular high school teacher in the 1970s sitcom.

Calwell has also had a successful engineering career. Karl always encouraged his athletes to do well in school. “If they do well in school, they will be good team players. The years we won medals, we had intelligent athletes.” Healthy active smart living has always been Karl’s credo. It’s an important factor in developing the intelligence of our children.

Karl would push his teams to higher heights. He set the sights high and encouraged the teams to believe they could do it. It wasn’t enough to just win the league. His volleyball teams won nine WOSSA gold medals and twelve silver. At the provincial level, his volleyball teams medalled eight times.

The senior volleyball boys started winning in the early 1980s. Then the younger boys were inspired. Soon the girls’ teams were getting stronger and they were winning too. Karl is a story teller and each successive team was regaled with the successes of the students that went before. They tasted that success and wanted it too.

The Glencoe volleyball teams earned a reputation. They were the dominant team in WOSSA in the 1980s. One year, when Jason Brearley and Paul Edwards were playing their final year of volleyball, G.D.H.S. was upset in the final by West Elgin. That was a relief to another team that had made it to the provincial level and who had sent scouts to watch the game in order to study G.D.H.S. strengths and weaknesses. Another year, Glencoe upset West Elgin and Glencoe went to OFSAA. “The two schools had a nice rivalry,” recalls Karl.

The fascination of volleyball.
The game evolves. When the Olympic Games are over, the international volleyball association gathers and adjusts the rules. So you have to keep up to date. The game stays interesting. Skills basically stay the same but the importance of skills changes as rules come and go.

There’s No Short Answer
Gord Leach, Gord Welshman and Karl Vinke had complementary coaching styles and the students benefited from that continuity. On the guy’s side, there’s been little staff turnover. Gord Leach got the crowd laughing at Karl’s retirement dinner with his description of this typical scene in the halls:

Perhaps some of you have experienced what I have, so many, many times, on the way to the washroom. I would meet Karl in the hall and ask innocently, and with genuine interest, “How did the team do on the weekend?

Invariably, he would explain in great detail, not only what the team had done, but what each player had done, what they should have done at specific times during the match, what each member had the potential to do, how their play had compared with the last tournament, and how their overall team chemistry compares with that team from three year ago. “But they are improving and should be ready… if they meet so-and-so in the early part of the tournament schedule next Saturday, however…”

All the while, Gordie was inventing new polite ways to interrupt while anxiously eyeing the washroom door. Mr. Leach says that Karl has been a good friend to his players and fellow staff members. Karl Vinke is the type of person who will NEVER sell you out. He never dwells on the negative. It if is required, he is quiet and gentle in his criticism.

Karl’s contribution to volleyball was recognised in 1995, with the presentation of the OFSSA award for Leadership in School Sport. In 2000, he received the Bishop Townsend award for education excellence. In 1999, Karl coached the regional volleyball team in Ottawa for the provincial summer games.

Coaching One’s Own Children
A big highlight for Karl was coaching his own children. Stephanie, Andrea, and Derek were all on medal winning teams, two of them provincial. Neil Johnston and Derek were on the senior boys volley ball team which came fourth in the 1997-98 provincial competition. Two years later, buddies Neil Johnson and Rowan Lam helped the team win the gold.

Is there any other person that has given more of his/her life to G.D.H.S.? Karl entered grade nine in 1963 and only took a short hiatus to get more education in London.

The Perks of a Small School
“The benefits of teaching in your own community far outweigh the disadvantages,” he says. In a small school population, teachers get to know most of the students. For years, Karl taught every grade nine boy; 50% of the kids.

The city schools can’t compare to the community atmosphere of a smaller rural school. “Parents can approach us. We are accessible.” Karl goes out to all kinds of school and community events to support his students in their non-sporting endeavours.

Why Teachers Balked
Karl’s big concern is the quality of education. 2000-2001 was a tough year when the teachers united to say “no more” to the policies that they felt were heading in a dangerous direction. Those policies are coming home to roost as G.D.H.S. has now become vulnerable to new provincial funding formulae and incomprehensible economies of scale.

Panama and Dubai
In 2004, Carl and his wife, Ann Marie, headed to teaching jobs at the International School of Panama. Inspired by his daughter Stephanie’s teaching experience in international schools, they completed two years in the Panama and then taught another two years in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Student Testimonial
The many medals may tarnish, get dusty or get lost, but students will never lose the memories of the job of effort – of confidence, even perhaps cockiness, of exhilaration, of agony, of breathtaking pressure, of the first kill or that perfect pass, of so many gyms, of close friendships, of medal ceremonies, of being the best, of wondering ‘what happened?’, of respect from other teams, of respecting other teams – memories of what a great game volleyball is. Most of all, the memories of togetherness. We did it all, the good and the bad together. And all through this, Karl Vinke was the constant – dependable, caring and dedicated, that made all of this work.

Karl was the conductor, his players the musicians, and they made beautiful music together, music that they could not have possibly made alone.

I think that Karl is one of those people who will never feel “finished”. There will always be more out there that he wants to accomplish.

Karl Vinke, you are a noble man and while at this high school as a teacher-coach, you made a most noble contribution. It’s been an honour to be in your company.

Written by Mary Simpson
Wednesday, June 30, 2004


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