Dr. Frtiz Schumann. Photo: Myrna MacDonald.

Schumann steps up as skating volunteer

On any given winter weekend, you'll most likely find Dr. Fritz Schumann at a speed skating meet somewhere in Western Canada watching members of the Saskatoon Lions Speed Skating Club. It's an activity that he's enjoyed since his sons Jörn and Marco joined the club about 10 years ago.

It's also the activity that earned him a nomination for the 2013 Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance Prestige Award in recognition of his outstanding volunteer work. As a board member and meet co-ordinator for the Saskatoon club, Schumann has worked tirelessly to organize events like Speed Skating Canada's 2012 national long track competition which was held in Saskatoon.

"Sometimes it's a lot of work, but I'm happy to do it because my son Marco is so crazy about speed skating," explains Schumann. "I'm happy to organize things so that he can get what he wants to get out of the sport."

Although both boys were members of the speed skating club for several years, Jörn has now moved on to other interests that include mountain and road biking as well as wall climbing. Marco, on the other hand, has continued with the club. This year he won the national long track and western short track championships for his age class after winning almost every race he skated throughout the 2012-2013 season.

"He's passionate and crazy about speed skating, and I enjoy seeing the passion in my son when he skates," Schumann says. "It's his life. He dreams of going to the Olympics, of being on the Canadian team."

While Schumann enjoys watching his son as well as the other members of the Saskatoon club, he points out that the sport requires a huge commitment from the competitors' families. A national meet such as the one held in 2012 requires sponsors as well as 40 to 50 volunteers for each race that's held during the three-day competition.

Because Schumann is on the road every day in his job as a field service clinical associate for the Western College of Veterinary Medicine's Large Animal Clinic, he ends up doing most of his speed skating work after 10 p.m. For him the biggest challenge is asking people for sponsorship – that's something that he finds hard to do.

"It's outside my comfort zone to ask people for money," he explains. "But my son Jörn gave me a picture with a caption that reads, ‘When you leave your comfort zone, that's where life really starts.' I guess I think about that every day."

Although finding time to do the organizing can be tough, Schumann really enjoys supporting the club and spending his weekends in the bleachers with the other families who have become really close friends over the years. They all support and look out for each other's kids, and they miss seeing each other over the summer.

He also believes that meeting and volunteering with other people widens his vision – his view of life. That's something he's always enjoyed about working with the students at the WCVM who have nominated the popular clinician for several teaching awards since he came to the college from Namibia, Africa, in 1987.

"I learn from being around other people," he explains. "I like questioning them about their lives, and I think I learn lots from the stories that they tell me. They often give me ideas that can guide me in life."

Schumann was humbled to learn that Saskatoon Sports Tourism had nominated him for the award and enjoyed his trip to Ottawa for the award ceremonies this past April. Although he wasn't chosen to receive the national award, he was honoured at the local level – Saskatoon Sports Tourism presented him with a trophy naming him a "2012 Saskatoon Shines, Tourism Leadership Recipient."

As he looks ahead, Schumann anticipates getting more involved in biking so that he can help Jörn with his interests, and he plans to continue his work with the Saskatoon Lions Speed Skating Club which is now preparing for another national meet, the Canada Cup III and Canadian Junior Championships, to be held in Saskatoon in January 2014.

While Schumann expects that volunteerism will decrease as society changes, particularly as the use of technology increases, he hopes that his work has engrained some good values in his own kids and their friends so that they'll step up and volunteer when they grow up.

"A lot of things won't happen without volunteers, and that's why I do it. I think that society can't survive without us working together. When I was brought up in Africa, I learned that it's not just yourself. You need to look out for everybody."
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