Monday, March 30, 2015

Former Mission Roadrunner Coach Brian Fichter and former basketball star Kenny Braich weigh in on our cultural diversity.

COLUMN: Much work is needed on intercultural friendship

By Ken Herar
I was recently sitting in a local restaurant when I quickly noticed that the fast food joint was very segregated. Everyone, appeared friendly. There was a large group of South Asian teens in one section of the restaurant and in the other half were Asian and Caucasian teens.
The only intercultural table was the one we were sitting at with the other person being Caucasian. Not to pick on any one race, we all know much work is needed on intercultural friendships in our communities. The moment we gear away from this conversation, issues can divide us.
To build on this outreach, the Abbotsford News and Cycling4Diversity Foundation is offering a School Essay Contest. The 300-word essay question is: In 30 days, how could you impact cultural diversity in Abbotsford/Mission and explain the significance of multiculturalism to you and your family? This question is for middle school students (ages 11 to 13) and there is also a colouring contest for elementary school kids. Those who are interested can contact me at or pick up the forms at the Abbotsford News office.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with two basketball greats, Brian Fichter and Kenny Braich, who weighed in on this discussion. Fichter, coached 32 seasons and for 12 of them he led the Mission Roadrunners (1973-1985). He took the Roadrunners to five BC Championships and almost captured a few titles. Fichter emphasized that much of our values towards each other are learned at home.
One of the key points, he noted was that diversity was not an issue when he was a teacher/coach because he would not allowed such a problem to arise.
If this ever became an issue, the consequences would be much harsher when dealing with him. Fichter said: “If I had any success, as a coach, teacher in a diverse culture,  it was primarily because getting along was one of the prerequisites to success. Groups cannot achieve goals when they are not focused on the same goal and as a coach and later as a principal. I was the leader, so it was my responsibility to ensure that there were clear expectations for players, students and staff.
“There was always a consequence for any two players who were having difficulties between themselves and I had decided early in my career that players who after each practice had issues would deal with me and that would be worse than dealing with each other.
“I tried to have my players respect each other, their opponents and never allowed them to trash talk, he said.”
Kenny Braich, who comes from a family of greatness and is also the uncle of Yale Secondary star Riley Braich, played under Coach Fichter in the early 1980s and was named First Team All Star in the 1982 provincial tournament after an eighth-place finish. He was also the highest scorer in that year’s tourney and sixth highest in history up to then. He was on several BC Provincial Select teams and was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team.
Braich, spoke about the importance of leadership and learning valuable lessons at home growing up and the challenges faced by parents today in the “me” generation.
“There was never a serious issue of racism, prejudice or bullying amongst our teams, but it was very strong and present almost everywhere we played as we were often victimized as a team and/or individually. This started as early as I can remember with things being so bad that on one occasion during a championship hockey game around 1975, my coach made me switch uniforms and put talcum powder all over my face to try to conceal my ethnicity because he had heard that the other team was planning on intentionally hurting “the Hindu on Mission” to beat us.
“As a society, we know what the issues are and we know how to solve them but as always, intelligence without gumption, without the fortitude to act, is useless,” he said.