Tony Tenisci’s Tribute
A Tribute to Willi Krause-my first Coach and Lifelong Mentor:
It is so hard for me right now to pull all of my thoughts of Willi out of my memories of him from a time gone by….I would feel more natural speaking about him rather than from written words, as it would come from my heart. And in my heart is where I find the memories of Willi and all the wonderful things he gave me at a very young and impressionable age.
As destiny would have it, I met Willi in the winter of 1964… in a training room in the back of the Cominco Arena… that moment when we crossed paths, has always remained in my memory as the turning point of my life. As an overweight, underachieving teenager, I walked into this small room full of larger than life athletes and observed what I thought to be the most amazing sight I had ever seen. A room full of athletes jumping, lifting weights, repeating drills, straining to do technique that seemed out of this world…. all under the direction of this man in grey pants, white short sleeve shirt and with the whitest hair I had ever seen.
For whatever reason brought me there, I still am not sure, but there I was standing in this doorway watching this amazing world I knew nothing of… Willi had his back to me and was directing the training. He did not know I was there at first, so I cleared my throat so that I could get his attention. He did not originally respond to my noise. So I opened my mouth and called out his name…
“Excuse me Mr. Krause….may I speak with you?” These are my first words to him.
As he turned around, I felt my heart jump a little, as I had never seen such penetrating blue eyes in my whole life… he looked right at me and through me at the same time. I remember thinking how strong of a face he had and how honest he looked.
My next few words changed my life forever….and I said to him:
“Mr. Krause, I want to be a great athlete….!”
For those athletes near us and within hearing distance, I remembered that some laughed and reacted to these words in a funny kind of way… I could not blame them, as I was a poor sight to behold at that point in my life. I was extremely overweight and certainly did not look like I had even a centimeter of talent in my body.
Yet, Willi just looked at me with those blue eyes and held his gaze on me. He did not laugh…
And his next words changed my life forever…. he said, “Alright young man… take off your shoes and we can begin right now!”
I cannot tell you how important that response was to me… for he opened the door to a whole new life for me. At that moment he saved my life and gave me the courage and the strength to face it… not just as any ordinary person… but as an athlete. He gave me that title then and there… and for the rest of my life, I will always cherish what that moment meant to me.
Willi, gave me track and field… and track and field saved my life… so in due turn, I gave my life back to track and field.
I tell this story to you now, because what Willi showed me in that moment, has affected and guided me my whole life long.
As an educator and professional coach, I have never turned anyone away who wanted to be an athlete. Willi showed me that hard work, dedication, knowledge of technique and the desire to achieve, are far greater qualities for an athlete than outright God-given talent. He knew better than most, that talent is only as good as the work that it stands on.
He would often tell me stories of the many athletes he worked with who were given great talent but not the commitment to sacrifice and work hard… how frustrating it was for him at times to see talent walk away because they did not want to work hard…
Yet, as we all know, he had great talents too, who achieved wonderful things and went to the very top of track and field. He loved them very much and took such pride in their efforts… no matter how many years passed, he always remembered you and embraced you in friendship… that bond of Coach and Athlete which is forever forged side by side in hard work and sacrifice.
Willi Krause was like no other coach I have ever met… I have coached for over 35 years now and I have never met any other coach who can come close to him… all of us athletes who have had the privilege to be under his guidance, realize how lucky and fortunate we were to have known him. In a little smelting town in British Columbia, Canada… we all found one of Canada’s natural treasures.. how blessed we were to have been brought to him and to be guided by him… there does not a day go by that I don’t give thanks for Willi Krause being in my life….
We all miss you very much Willi…I know for certain, that he is in Heaven right now giving instructions to the lazy angels and telling them, “Never be satisfied… for once you are satisfied, you stop trying and you stop being the best you can be!”
You will always be with us Willi… for your lessons on life have not been forgotten.