Thursday, April 30, 2015

AU LAKES ZONE UPDATE - Winter 2014/2015

By Lee Kohli, AU Lakes Zone Director

So much to do; so little time, and my wife tells me I’m just hyper.  First, I should re-introduce myself to my peers in the Lakes Zone that more than likely have never heard of me. As a kid, I was called Coop Kohli, and today, I occasionally write articles under that name. I am a 62 year old, self employed pigeon flyer living in the Amish country, near Winesburg, Ohio.

With my wife as partner, I have been in the grocery and pizza business for nearly 20 years, having gotten here somehow from a career in management and sales in the broiler-chicken business for a major east coast poultry processor. After graduating from the Ohio State University with a degree in poultry science, that experience took me to New York, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, the Delmarva peninsula, through Virginia and North Carolina, and then back to Ohio.

I would rather race pigeons than about anything else I can think of, and have been passionate about it for as long as I have been capable of thinking. Since so few of you voted, I and some of my recent AU peers, had to be appointed, but despite that, I think we can help make some progress as we move forward. A great part of my non-business life is spent assisting the great fanciers of the Ohio-Penn Federation. Having won a few significant races in my lifetime, I understand what it takes to be a competitive participant in this intense sport, and I will always be a loyal widowhood flyer before I ever claim to be an administrator. I don’t golf, bowl, play poker, race cars, party, or take cruises. I just race pigeons. My wife teases me that I am just depraved and one dimensional.

Working into a new time-consuming project like AU Lakes Zone Director without eliminating any of the previous time-consuming challenges, has made old Coop’s recent life a bit of a thrill ride.

The October convention in Omaha came first, when new Directors were seated, and it was a first class event. Conventions are an activity that more of us should participate in, but I’m as guilty as anyone for not attending conventions. I used to tell my wife, “I don’t have the time, nor can we afford it. Forget about it.” Now, I wish I had done it differently. Coach Lou Holtz once
advised his players, “Two things can change your life; the books you read and the people you meet.”

And so it goes. The convention is a great place to source out new ideas, attend seminars and see new products, as well as those new books. It is also a great place to meet new people, and through new friends you can increase your pleasure in this sport exponentially. One of the goals of the AU is to find new ways to adapt the conventions so that more of our members will attend. If you have ideas, please share them.

Next came the November Zone meeting that took place in Lake Milton, Ohio, piggy-backing on the annual Ohio-Penn Federation meeting and included the attendance of AU Executive Director, Karen Clifton, AU Vice President, Ron Pairan, and AU Sports Development Manager, Deone Roberts. The AU office sent out 700 advance post cards to Lakes zone members in Ohio and Pennsylvania announcing the meeting, and we had the best attendance we’ve had in years. (I know that because I am Secretary of the Ohio-Penn Federation.) The AU appreciates the invitation and sends a special thank you to those IF members that graciously allowed time for the AU to participate in the meeting. If hosting a zone meeting would benefit your group, please reach out to us so we can explore the possibility.

In early December, I traveled to East McKeesport, Pa, to assist pigeon author Edwin “Bud” Welty in the dispersal of his family of Huyskens-Van Riels, many of them originally sourced from Dr. Whitney’s Speedome Lofts. The birds have been inbred since 1967 with only a handful of introductions along the way. I spent a great deal of time preparing pedigrees, and to date have given all but five pair away.

In mid-December, it was on to a Sunday meeting of the Miami valley Sportsman’s Club near Dayton, Ohio. I want to visit individual clubs when I can. The AU, in my mind, needs to re-sell itself, reminding fanciers that “we” are the AU. The organization has done so much to develop the sport and has so much more to contribute. I see the Zone Directors job as an important extension of that selling process. The AU is out there, wanting to know what they can do to help you succeed with that team of racing pigeons in your own back yard. I’ve worked with a lot of goal oriented people in my lifetime, but none surpass the sense of urgency displayed by the AU ladies in Oklahoma City. They are there, and you are paying them. It’s a tremendous resource. Please use them when you can for your own problem-solving. If they can’t help you, they’ll tell you. They aren’t bashful.

In mid-January, we will attend the Cleveland Outdoor Convention, where with the help of Deone
Roberts, we will have a booth, angling to key on rabbit hunters. Deone had us in this thing quickly. A common denominator among a number of flyers in my area is a one time fascination with beagles and rabbit hunting. I was once one of them. (The Flushing, Ohio, club is comprised almost entirely of former rabbit hunters, and attending a convention like this was a suggestion from their race secretary, Rick Withrow.) We are on the prowl for affordable, promotional ideas to expand participation in this wonderful sport. If you have ideas we should consider, please share them.

What comes next is being worked out right now. (1) A high priority is to organize an association of Lakes Zone AU Club Presidents. A list of those presidents is being developed by the AU office as you read this. I am convinced that a forum is needed locally for these leaders to talk, compare notes and race schedules, even if it is only for a single meeting each year. I am always amazed that local groups don’t know each other or communicate more for problem solving.  The AU needs some “ears to the ground”, so in another area, I am quietly searching for a few positive, experienced individuals from across the zone to serve under the radar as advisors to the “new” Lakes Zone Director. (Established Zone Directors probably don’t need this help.) In northeast Ohio, it is Mr. Jim Bedell, of the Akron’s GAR club. In southern Ohio it is Mr. Ron McBee of Springfield and my mentor to this task, Mr. Ron Pairan, both competing in the tough Central Ohio Combine. The amount of ground we have to cover is great, time is scarce and funding is sparce, so feedback from these people could quickly improve service and AU effectiveness throughout the zone, now covering the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio Michigan, Kentucky and West Virginia. If you have suggestions, you can contact me at 330 464 3866, or at

In the course of the next few years, we will throw some “stuff” against the wall and see what sticks. I look forward to meeting you somewhere along the way.