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Nelson's Wayne Naka excited to take on challenge of 55-plus BC Games

Bruce Fuhr
By Bruce Fuhr
September 17th, 2014

Coaching in the Western Hockey League, Wayne Naka truly experienced the meaning of pressure.

Those skills were definitely an asset after the Nelson native left the rigors of Tier I hockey for a principal position in the Kootenay-Columbia School District 20.

However, the 59-year-old instructor will need to bottle up every bit of experience gained through his many years of coaching and teaching now that he’s been elected president of the BC Seniors Games Society.

Naka assumed the position from June Parsons, who resigned at the recent 2014 BC Seniors Games in Langley following seven years at the helm of the Seniors Games Society.

“I don’t know whether it is “Congrats” or just “WOW”,’ Naka told The Nelson Daily when the local online news source offered congratulations on the new position.

“This is an incredible amount of work, but so very important at this time in BC and around the world,” he added.

Naka, who attended school in Nelson, left in high school at L.V. Rogers to play in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

He then decided to get a teaching degree before coaching took over in Kelowna at the BC Junior Hockey League level.

A few years later and Naka was in the big leagues, heading up the Victoria Cougars.

However, after coaching dried up, Naka and wife Rae decided to head up north and the west coast of Vancouver Island to raise a family.

Naka returned to the West Kootenay to take a position in SD 20.

After coaching basketball teams at J. Lloyd Crowe and Stanley Humphries, Naka became interested in the BC Senior Games serving as sport director when West Kootenay Senior Games were hosted by the Tri-Cities — Castlegar, Trail and Nelson — in 2011.

Naka then joined the BC Seniors Games executive and was elected vice-president for the past three years.

“It is a daunting task as we have office space in Sydney and also have a secretary there who manages our work,” Naka said.

“Working remotely is one thing, but I, along with many of our 55-60 age group members are still working.”

The commute didn’t stop the father of three grown children, who was “astounded” at the thousands of participants who flock to the Senior Games every year.

“I looked at myself and wanted to contribute to this amazing event, and our society as a whole,” Naka said.

“Our 55-plus population is now the biggest population in the province and we need people in that age group to not only become active participants in the 55-plus BC Games, but also active in supporting out society and their respective zones throughout the year . . .. There is a lot of work to be done.”

Now in the president’s role, Naka has many goals.

A few include re-branding of our Games from the BC Seniors Games to the 55+ BC GAMES; complete the work being done on our five-year Strategic Plan; review arrangements/relationships with the BC Games, The Sport Branch and ViaSport; review 55+ BC Games with respect to rules, scheduling and sports offered; and review existing relationships with current and future Provincial Sport Organizations (PSO’s) to make sure the best possible events are offered to participants.

 “Yeah, I know, it is massive,” Naka confessed.

Number one on Naka’s list of goals — rebranding — already got a jump start when MLA Rich Coleman announced the name change of the annual multi-sport event as the 55+ BC Games starting in 2015 with the North Vancouver Games.

“The 55+ Games and our BC Seniors Games Society play an enormous part in our society today,” Naka said.

“We are showcasing this portion of our province’s population and it is a unique and constantly growing section. We want all British Columbians to see our Games and Society and population, and realize how much we are doing and how important we believe in active and healthy lifestyles at 55 plus.”

Each year a different community in the province offers up their facilities to host the events.

Last weekend in Langley, the Senior Games played hosts to 25 sports, close to 3,900 participants and 1,300 volunteers.

Which as the new president promised to take a little more organizing than what’s needed to, say, run a junior hockey team, classroom or school.

But Naka believes he’s up for the challenge.

“I have a feeling that this year is going to be a very busy one for me as the learning curve will be very steep,” Naka said.

“I am proud to be the president and will do my very best to carry our society and Games into the 21st Century.”

Looks like the 55-plus BC Games executive made the right choice in the selection of the new president . . . a president who thrives under pressure.

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