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Longtime volunteer honoured at Canada Cup in South Surrey

'I believe in amateur sport, and I'm a big believer in giving back to the community'

When Steven Mah first volunteered for the Canada Cup, an international fastpitch tournament held at Softball City in South Surrey each year, he had no idea he would still be doing it more than 30 years later.

From Saskatchewan originally, Mah moved to the Lower Mainland when he was just 22 and got a job in sports physiotherapy at Simon Fraser University. A private practitioner with four decades of experience, he has worked with the Chinese Olympic team, the Vancouver Warriors (NLL) lacrosse team, the New Westminster Salmonbellies (WLA) lacrosse team and the BC Winter Games, among other accomplishments, building his business while also helping to raise a family, as a husband and father.

In the early 1990s, he was working in Surrey at a private sports physio clinic when one of his clients, Pat Higginbotham (husband to former Surrey councillor Judy Higginbotham) learned of his extensive sports physiotherapy background.

"(Higginbotham) said, 'You're the perfect guy I need to know!'" Mah recalled with a chuckle.

"He convinced me to seriously consider volunteering my services as a physiotherapist, and help co-ordinate medical coverage for the inaugural Canada Cup – I think it was in 1993, the first Canada Cup. ... I've worked with BC Winter Games and helped organize medical coverage, so he suggested, 'You can help us get started!'"

Mah remembered how Canada Cup founder Glen Todd said it wouldn't be a lot of commitment and that anything he needed for physiotherapy services and first aid services would be provided.

"I reluctantly agreed, thinking that it was going to be a short-term thing, and the first year we were out there it was like a MASH tent – dirt ground, no lighting, no electricity, no water ... we had nothing," he recalled with a laugh.

"I had to bring my kit that I normally carry in my car to cover other athletic events, and it was quite the experience that first year."

Being the tournament's inaugural year, there were definitely lessons learned, Mah noted, and things improved exponentially in Canada Cup's third year, when he convinced HealthMed Distributors owner Axel Kroitzsch to help sponsor the event and provide medical equipment and supplies; both have been helping at the annual tournament every year since.

Medical volunteers help the athletes as well as spectators and guests at the international competition, which attracts more than1,500 athletes and hundreds of volunteers and guests each year, and are often busy treating heat exhaustion, bee or wasp stings, injuries from falling or tripping as well as working with the athletes from all of the teams involved.

"We've seen lots of injuries – the tournament has just grown over the years – there can be more than 100 visits (to the medical trailer) per day," he noted. 

The tournament, now in its 31st year, showcases some of the top female athletes from across Canada and the world in five different divisions, as well as elite athletes at the national and club level.

At this year's tournament, Mah was honoured with a plaque for his long-term dedication and service. 

"I think women's sport needs more support than men's sport," Mah said, noting it was nice to receive the recognition.

"I believe in giving back. I believe in amateur sport, and I'm a big believer in giving back to the community."




Tricia Weel

About the Author: Tricia Weel

I’ve worked as a journalist in community newspapers from White Rock to Parksville and Qualicum Beach, to Abbotsford and Surrey.
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