Steinbach’s Michelle Sawatzky was awarded the University of Manitoba's Assistant Coach of the Year. 

Sawatzky says she was completely shocked when she heard her name announced. 

“There are some awards as an athlete that you can anticipate, if you're on a #1 ranked team and you're a good player, you might be in line for something.” 

She says that U of M has so many teams with incredible people guiding the athletes. 

“I mean, football teams have 10 assistant coaches, and hockey teams have multiple coaches on their benches. And then there's our men's volleyball team, our basketball teams, and our soccer team and golf,” she says. “And I was genuinely shocked and instantly had tears in my eyes. And U of M put together a video and I got to hear what some of the girls said and it was just really humbling and really cool.” 

Sawatzky says when she was a player, she grew up with very good, but very strict coaches. 

“I had incredible coaches, but it was 'my way or the highway', and it was, 'do it or else', and I functioned well in that environment, but I think my goal has been to come back to the sport and say, 'can we be that tough but still be loved and be valued for who we are, not for what we do?'” 

She says when you play in a way that values people for who they are inside, the winning will come. 

“The success comes, you know why? Because you are fully yourself and you are just an incredible human being.” 

Sawatzky says it was a great feeling to see her values and the way she coaches are being recognized by the athletes she coaches. 

“For those girls to have said that they hear that. Anything you try in life, if someone's actually getting what you're trying to do, it's just awesome.” 

She says that it is incredible what people can accomplish when they have someone who believes in them and pushes them to be their best. 

“Knowing how good they can actually be and knowing what it takes to get there because often we as humans don’t know what we can actually accomplish. We have no idea how hard we can actually work,” she says. “We think we're tired and we think we're sore and we think we can't do more, but you can always do a little bit more when someone believes in you that you can do a little bit more.” 

She has been an assistant coach with U of M for a total of three years, and first assistant for the last two years. 

After her sons graduated from high school, they no longer needed her to coach them, so she reached out to the Head Coach at U of M, Ken Bentley, and asked to help out the team.

“I just said, ‘I got some extra time. I'd love to come and throw a few balls to the setters or help your team out a little bit.’ And he instantly goes, ‘Will you be one of our assistant coaches?’” 

The first year she had planned to only go three times a week, and by the third weekend, she was going to all the weekend tournaments and traveling with the team. 

“I should have known myself a little bit better by saying yes to some meant saying yes to it all.” 

With files from Corny Rempel