BREMERTON — It could well have been a clinic on the psychology of sport Saturday afternoon instead of induction honors for the Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame class of 2009. Nobody was teaching it during ceremonies at Bremer Student Center gym at Olympic College, but listening to various speakers it became clear the mind works wonders in producing successful teams, players and life careers.
“Rocket” Ron Vehrs used psychology ploys where he could find them to become one of the best high school track and field coaches in West Sound during his time at Bremerton’s East High School.
Former Bremerton/West High School basketball coach Mike Pugh accepted Hall of Fame honors for Lori Carver (Loera), who he helped lift out of a tough childhood by instilling confidence in her. Carver went on to play basketball at the University of Oregon and has become a successful mother and teacher/coach in Moses Lake.
But if there was an individual who personified the mental approach to sports and life it was the late Bob Moawad, who coached one of two Central Kitsap teams inducted yesterday the 1969 Central Kitsap basketball team to the state AA championship and then later founded Edge Learning Institute, a company that teaches motivation as a tool for successful approaches to business and life.
Moawad gave confidence to the guys he coached besides teaching fundamentals and 40 years later his players still praise the man who made it all happen for them that magical 1969 season.
“He made us believe we could leap tall buildings in a single bound,” said Don Thorsen, the team captain and leading scorer. “We wouldn’t be state champions without him.”
Bob Moawad Jr. accepted the award for his dad and later said he is a successful real estate agent in Bellevue because of what he learned from his dad, who as a motivational speaker spent many years traveling the globe, passing out the wisdom of his mental approach.
“He would come back from traveling – 28 days a month most of the time giving seminars all around the world,” Bob Moawad Jr. said. “Our moment was, he comes home and we go to the Tacoma Golf & Country Club. We would play a round of nine at dusk. You could barely see. That was about the only time I saw my dad. He was traveling, trying to motivate the world.
“Whenever I come home (to Lakewood), I always go by the gravesite and drop off a Pro V golf ball. I just drop it off and let him know I’m thinking about him. It’s my way of saying thanks for making me who I am. It’s also to honor and respect him.”
Another son, Trevor, is director of mental conditioning for IMGA sports management group in Florida, essentially doing what his father did. The only difference is that Trevor Moawad does it for the business of sports.
“Today, he is with Florida State (football team) as they play Boston College in Boston,” Bob Moawad Jr. said. “He also works with Nick Saban at Alabama. He’s a consultant with Florida State, Alabama, several professional teams and athletes directly.”
Vehrs talked about the mental aspect he used to get track athletes to compete better than they thought they could. He told the story of Gene Jarstad, a miler at East High whose best time would not enable him to beat a West High School runner in a coming track meet. Vehrs did not want to run Jarstad in the race because even he was doubtful he would win. But Jarstad insisted.
“Coach, I want to win,” Jarstad said.
Jarstad was the son of Bremerton mayor Glenn Jarstad, and Vehrs quickly figured out that his miler didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of his dad.
“The problem was that West had one of the best milers in the state. He was many seconds faster than Gene,” Vehrs said. “You are talking about a boy who wanted to please his father. Imagine that? The heck with the Mariners, the Seahawks, this boy wanted to win for his father. That is important. So I looked at him and said, ‘you got all the strength but you are not fast.’ I told him, there is only one thing we can do. We have to surprise him.”
Vehrs told Jarstad to stay with the West runner for three laps, and then kick it in gear over the last lap. The West runner, Vehrs said, was used to having a finishing kick over the last part of the lap and would be surprised at Jarstad’s early move.
It happened just like Vehrs thought, with Jarstad winning by building a lead the shocked West runner could not close on.
“It’s huge,” said Moawad Jr. of the mental aspect of athletics. “People are just starting to realize that it’s all up here; it’s what between the ears.”
His dad did more than instruct the mental. Bob Moawad Jr. said his dad always beat him.
“He really took it to me,” he said. “Basketball, golf, it didn’t matter. He had the mental edge. I heard a lot of that today. And I heard a lot of people pay respect for my dad. This is very humbling. I just hope to be half what he was. He was a great role model.”
Bob Moawad. Sr. died in 2007 after a seven-year battle with cancer. He was 66.
“He passed at 4 in the morning,” Moawad Jr. said. “In his mind, mentally, he was never going to die. He said, ‘Never put a period where God put a comma.'"
Just before he died, he told his son that he was proud of him and, ‘To take care of your mother.”
Around 1,500 were at his wake at the Tacoma Golf and Country Club, the biggest gathering there since Arnold Palmer’s appearance in 1963.
“He was an amazing man,” Moawad Jr. said.
It was an amazing afternoon with the Bremerton swimming Kirk sisters – Tara and Dana – being inducted (another Bremerton swimmer Nathan Adrian also made an appearance) along with the 1969 state champion football and basketball teams from CK, the NHRA Gladiator racing team of John Blanchard, Larry Hendrickson and Perry Brochner, Art Ellis, who coached the CK state title team, former North Kitsap basketball coach Jim Harney and former South Kitsap wrestling coach Ron Hudiburg.
Also going in with the 2009 Hall of Fame class were Pam Clark Marquardt, a 4-sport athlete at NK; Jake Maberry, state hall of fame basketball coach at Lynden High school who got his coaching start at Central Kitsap; Benji Olsen, former SK and University of Washington football player who played 10 years in the NFL with Tennessee; Aaron Sele, another NK athlete who spend 15 years in the Major Leagues as a pitcher; Frank White, Bremerton graduate who went on to have an outstanding career as a referee; Rosie Zimsen, a national caliber swimmer from Bremerton who was a four-time All American.
Rick Gehring, co-owner of Buck’s A&W in Port Orchard with his mother, Glennys, was honored with the Rex Brown Distinguished Service Award for his community service.
Hall of Fame Notes
Quick hits from Saturday’s Kitsap Sports Hall of Fame banquet at Olympic College:
Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian, who won a gold medley in the 400-medley relay during the 2008 Beijing Games, was a special guest at the induction ceremonies.
“I’m actually uncomfortable talking to people who are fully clothed,” said Adrian, a junior at California who came straight from the airport to Bremer Student Center gym.
The Bremerton native thanked the crowd, telling everybody that their “support is really felt, whether it’s in Beijing or Bremerton.”
Seattle comedian John Keister, the MC of the event, shared a lot of funny material with the audience. He picked on Ron Rogerson of the Kitsap Credit Union, a Washington State grad who was wearing a shirt with a Cougars’ logo. And the UW grad also took a swipe at the Huskies football team. “Last year I think the Huskies lost to DeVry, a correspondence school,” he said.
Sisters Tara (Kirk) Sell and Dana Kirk, both former Olympians, thanked their parents, Margaret and Jeff Kirk, and the community for the support that enabled them to accomplish what they did in the pool. “We came along at that perfect time,” said Dana, who talked about giving back. She’s now coaching in Palo Alto, Calif. Tara’s in the process of establishing an endowment that will help get kids from Bremerton elementary schools in the pool.
Swimmer Rosie (Zimsen) Sheppard’s award was accepted by her mother, Susie Ordogh, who competed in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, as a 16-year-old for Hungry.
The classic theme song from one of cinema’s most popular underdogs, Rocky Balboa, played when Ron “The Rocket” Vehrs stepped behind the podium. The high-energy Vehrs, a state champion sprinter at Bremerton High who went on to a highly successful career as a track and cross country coach at East High, captivated the audience with a series of entertaining stories from his coaching experiences.
“It was unbelievable to do what we did,” said John Blanchard, owner of the nationally-recognized Top Fuel team – The Gladiator – from 1962-72. “Most people coming from Bremerton don’t get as far in motorsports as we did.” Blanchard was honored along with driver Larry Hendrickson and crew chief Perry Brochner, who was unable to attend.
Former North Kitsap coach Jim Harney talked about, among other things, how Bob Moawad influenced him after taking the basketball job in Poulsbo. For Harney, it was an emotional day. He also accepted the award for Aaron Sele, the former major league pitcher from North Kitsap. His wife is also related to the Brochner family, and Harney coached and influenced the career of another inductee – Pam Clark.
Harney said Tom Nissalke, the former Sonics’ coach, and his mother advised him “to just go to a small town and coach. I was so lucky to land (in Poulsbo).”
HOF inductee Jake Maberry coached basketball two years at Central Kitsap before building an incredible tradition at Lynden. His son, Mark Maberry of Silverdale, accepted the award on behalf of his father, who was in attendance. Maberry said his father, Ted Tappe and Don Heinrich were among the players on a City League basketball team coached by Louie Soriano that used to thump teams in Seattle on a regular basis.
Dusty Anchors of the sponsoring Kitsap County Bremerton Athletic Roundtable, saluted Dick Todd, a long-time KCBAR member and past president who recently passed away. The KCBAR plans to announce a special award or memorial in his honor in the near future.