SCUGOG: In his 23rd year coaching the Port Perry Angels, Rick Finlay’s passion for the sport of softball remains strong.
Finlay first joined the Angels organization in 1992. At the time he was approached about the job, he was coaching a team in Pickering.
“(Don Hurst) approached me, and I said that I’ve got Canada Summer games coming up and in 1992 I had to go to the Worlds with my seniors to represent Canada in Beijing, China,” Finlay said. “So I said ‘as soon as I get this done, I have 1993 Canada Summer games, I’ll see what I can do here.’ In 1992 I actually started putting a team together for 1993 here.”
Finlay told The Standard that at the time, he didn’t think he would be with the organization that long.
“I thought it was just going to be a couple of years, as I was thinking of maybe retiring. We just got so many good kids that came out that wanted to play that I just kept going and we started adding another team here and there,” he said.
In 1993, he was named club president. Finlay said he decided not to have an executive because he has seen situations where organizations fail because of differences of opinion.
“I deal with the coaches and stuff because I sort of think I know what needs to be done, and I’ve watched a lot of organizations go down because of bickering and arguing,” he said. “So the coaches all know that I say what we are doing and that is how it is going to be. I’ve been there, done that, so something must have worked.”
When asked if there is one team he coached that sticks out in his mind, he mentioned the 2003 Midget team.
“We qualified for Nationals, and we finished third that year in the province. We went to Nationals and knocked out the two Ontario teams that had finished ahead of us, and we ended up third behind (British Columbia) and Alberta,” Finlay said. “That was probably the most exciting team because they were a really good bunch of kids.”
Also, in 2000, Finlay took 26 Angels from his Midget and Junior Teams to Australia for a 26 game tournament.
“I had an ex coach friend of mine from Ontario. He had moved down there and taken over Softball Australia and we kept in touch,” he said.” He invited us down there and had set up a 13 doubleheader schedule for us. We even got to play at the Olympic site before the Olympics. We played 20 games out of Canberra and 6 games out of Sydney. That was a treat, the girls still talk about that trip.”
The Port Perry Angels started with one Intermediate Women’s team, and the organization has grown to about a dozen teams under Finlay’s leadership.
“About five years ago we started the Squirt program, and since then we have been getting more and more kids in the area that want to play,” Finlay said. “Once they hear about the Angels, they all want to be an Angel.”
Finlay said being an Angel not only teaches you how to be successful in sport, but in the real world as well.
“I just tell (the girls) when you grow up and go into the real world, you need to be competitive, you need to be committed, you need to be hard workers,” he said.
That philosophy has paid off for many players, as Finlay said many of them have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, therapists, nurses among others. He also said he has received numerous calls from past Port Perry Angels, telling him playing in the environment he created has helped them become successful.