Rockets’ Kanyuh steps down after eleven years

RAPID RIVER — On September 10, Rapid River softball coach George Kanyuh stepped down as head coach of the Rockets program after 11 years in the position.

Kanyuh began coaching softball at the little league level before moving over to the high school program where he had been for the last 13 years, his first two years being an assistant. All told, he has dedicated 18 years of his life to coaching.

“If anyone had told me in 2010 that I’d be the head coach of a varsity softball team for the next 11 years, I would have thought they were crazy,” Kanyuh said. “But it was a fun, rewarding, experience that I’m glad I got to partake in. I’ve met a ton of good people, coaches and players throughout the country and the state of Michigan over the years as a result of coaching this sport.”

The decision to step away from coaching is one that Kanyuh has been thinking about for a while, he said.

“Folks in my inner softball circle knew for the past few years that I’d earmarked 2021 as my last season,” he said. “It’s just time.”

In the 11 years he was head coach, the Rockets never had a losing record — going 240-112 total. Along the way, they collected eight district titles, three regional titles and made it to the final four twice.

Kanyuh credited the success to all the help he had from assistant coaches and the kids on the field.

“I don’t say any of that to boast,” he said. “But, instead to pay tribute to the coaches and players that made those statistics possible.

“I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the players we’ve had through the years. So many of them brought a tremendous, self-driven work ethic to practice and games every day we took the field. So many of them would put in time after practice, or during the weekend, or in the off-season, to work on their hitting, fielding and pitching. A number of them attended softball camps, college clinics and private lessons to master their skills. It never ceased to amaze me how good so many girls that played for our program became. We had 14 different girls earn First Team All-State awards, a number of them earning the award multiple years. We’ve had 15 different girls go on to play college softball. What a tribute to their hard work, positive attitude, and dedication to the sport. Through the good times and the bad, lousy weather and good, ups and downs, wins and losses, it was a blast working with all of the fine ladies that came through our program the past 11 years.”

When it comes to favorite memories, one that stuck out to Kanyuh was a 2011 regional game against Onoway.

“Our pitcher, Heather Sanderson and the opposing pitcher both had a no-hitter through the first six innings in a 0-0 game,” Kanyuh reminisced. “The other team got their first hit in the seventh but did not score. The game went into extra innings tied 0-0.

“In the bottom of the eighth inning, we came up to bat still hitless. Our first batter, Shannon Wolf, hit the first pitch down the left field line for a lead-off double. Our next hitter, Whitney Thull, blasted the next pitch over the left field fence for a two-run walk-off home run. Just like that, two pitches, two swings of the bat, two hits, two runs and a victory. What a lesson in never giving up. We went on to win the Regional and advance to the Final Four that year.”

Kanyuh also tanked all of the coaches that have helped him through the years.

“I’d like to publicly thank the coaches that have served the program during my tenure. Our success through the years was a direct result of the time these folks selflessly donated to the girls they coached,” he said. “Don Brockway, Rodney Schwartz, Jim Groleau, Tim Belanger and Scott Goodacre were all genuine individuals that brought a love for the game, knowledge of the game, a competitive spirit, levity, a talent to teach, and a prodigious work ethic. Without their dedication, effort, and hard work, we would have never experienced all the success we did.”

While numbers — as they have in many programs around the state — trend downwards at Rapid River, Kanyuh hopes nothing but the best for the program in the years ahead.

“It’s a sad trend for a great sport that I hope can still find ways to blossom in the coming years,” he said. “I wish the best for the Rockets and all coaches and players in our local softball community. I’ll be in the stands for the big games whenever they come up.”

While Rapid River Athletic Director Lucas Bero — in his third year in the position — was only able to work with Kanyuh for one full season, he was able to see the impact he has had on the program.

“He has been an incredible asset to the softball program throughout his years here. He has won numerous district titles and has brought the softball team on several downstate runs,” Bero commented. “He also has put in a lot of extra time fundraising and working with the girls all winter into the regular season for no personal benefit other than helping the girls improve.

“George basically was one of the founders of Rapid River softball. He helped start and build up that program to what it is today, and we are very grateful for all that he’s done.”


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