CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – May 2023
“What mattered to them is what we have stressed from the start of the season – to have fun, play as a team, learn, and look for opportunities to get better.”
By David Grossman
Memories rarely fade, especially some of those special moments that are truly treasured.
Like the card Matt Peate received, and cherishes, from a young player called Maddox that reads “Thank you for being a great coach!”
As a sports coach, Peate likes to share flashbacks of meaningful times that embellished the feeling of optimism and accomplishment.
With a captivating smile, during a conversation over coffee, Peate shared his memories of a team he coached in the Whitby Minor Baseball Association.
In fact, he remembers it very well.
Made up of eight-and-nine-year-old players, his team had just been trounced, 16-1. Then came the post-game handshake, and those same players – crushed on the ball diamond – were then seen jumping up and down in an outburst of raucous triumph.
It wasn’t choreographed, but it was a scene he will never forget. Neither did the opposing coaches and the players on the victorious squad, who couldn’t decipher the hysteria displayed after a tumultuous loss.
Always optimistic, showing poise and confident, Peate’s explanation was unequivocally forthright.
“What mattered to them is what we have stressed from the start of the season – to have fun, play as a team, learn, and look for opportunities to get better,” said Peate. “At their age level, it’s not always about winning games, trophies and championships.”
While some coaches may have a difference of opinion, in Peate’s universe there is no disappointment or frustration. Yes, deflating times, but that goes for much more than a minor league baseball game.
John Wooden, a former college coach, once said “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
When it came to thinking that good things would happen with his players, Peate was bang on.
“The focus is on the kids and what we do to build confidence and enjoyment,” he said. “Sure, every kid wants to be like the pros, dream of making it to that level – and I was the same. There are rules that players understand, and I always enforce two, by e-mail and face-to-face: have fun and make sure you always bring the equipment, so you don’t get hurt.”
In addition to his own evaluation, Peate has received positive reaction from parents wanting him to coach their sons the following season.
“Lots of support,” said Peate, whose team had a tough 2022 season finishing with a 3-16 season record. “I made a commitment to these players that win or lose, they always need to have a smile on their face at the end of the game.”
When there is a need to reinforce rules, Peate does just that – and in an eloquent and sincere way. He’s also a coach known for inspiring hard work and, also, for taking time away from sport to deal with issues.
“I always find time to talk with kids who may have personal or family concerns or challenges,” he said. “Educating players, especially when it comes to behaviour, is very important.
“I once had a player, and he was very competitive, who struck out and threw his bat. I had a private conversation with him on the bench about self-control. I told him that we all have bad days, and it’s okay, but I made it quite clear that we would not tolerate it. Things improved.”
Peate’s introduction to organized baseball came as a nine-year-old, in the former Bloor Baseball League. His first coach emphasized the importance of every player on the team. Peate doesn’t hide that he has followed the same pattern.
“Back then, there was no best, or worst player – we played, learned and developed as a team,” he said. “My coach was one inspirational individual for me. I felt that I was a good player, but it was his encouragement and motivation that made me a better player.”
Raised by a single parent, family financial situations were a challenge.
Disappointment would come learning that aspirations of making the major leagues just would not come about. At age 14, his baseball dreams were shattered when, despite asking to be pulled because of shoulder pain, his coach left him in for another inning. That proved to be costly as he was unable to lift his arm, with medical staff later determining he had a rotator cuff injury.
Peate also didn’t have the funds to pursue a college or university education. As an 18-year-old, it was right to the work force, where he found employment in a restaurant as a cook and eventually as a supervisor. What became abundantly clear was his devotion to the job and superb customer service skills.
Experience, hard work, and a commitment to excel were priorities. Benefitting from an engaging and upbeat personality, and always sorting out his thoughts with a bright outlook, Peate doesn’t skip over opportunities. These days, he’s a Director of Operations for nine Tim Horton’s restaurants in York Region, where coaching staff takes on a whole new meaning.
What perked his interest in coaching came one spring day while taking his four-year old son to a baseball tryout. There was a need for community volunteers and coaches.
“I wanted to help and knew my coaching skills were work related,” he said. “I was leading adults, not children, in a work environment. For house league baseball, I didn’t have coaching certification but knew screening, enforcing discipline, rules and common sense would be very important.”
So, what’s it like as a sports coach?
“I do it because I love it,” said Peate, who also coaches house league hockey games. “The focus is always on the players in helping them, providing opportunities to learn, to work with others, and develop relationships.”
The Coaches Association of Ontario series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals – like Peate – who merge excellence in teaching with the strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training.
“The focus is on the kids and what we do to build confidence and enjoyment.“
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – April 2023
“I’m always looking to make someone’s life better whether it’s being around for conversations or just showing that I care for others, and I can help change their trajectory in life.”
Powerful comments that are emotionally stunning.
They are from Trevaun Douglas.
“Life is a precious thing,” he said. “I grew up in an area, tough times, saw people struggle, violence, neighbourhood trauma and paranoia amongst young people, and I knew my purpose was to try help the next generation make things much better.”
There’s no need talking to Trevaun about his memories in the Lawrence Heights area of mid-town Toronto. That’s where he resides. He works in the same community, understands the issues and is now trying to help young people enhance their quality of life – by doing it the right way.
For Trevaun, raised by a single parent who had struggled to do her best for him and his siblings, it took a certain belief. There was also an abundance of confidence – a spirit of determination that would want him to leave his stamp. Also, a positive impact on a community hindered by turmoil over the years.
“My daily battle is to lead where I can – and get better at what I do,” said the 25-year-old, whose first name is defined as being one who is “sensitive, affectionate, imaginative and cooperative, and prone to self-sacrifice”. Add on being an individual who has developed intuition, patience, an ability to learn easily, nurture others and thrives on a desire to balance his life with those around him.
A youngster who had his share of tough times, relied on a foodbank, but still dreamed of a career as a health and nutrition coach and a trainer for athletes.
His strong words have already sent shock waves and a wake-up signal to young people who reside in what is believed to be the largest social housing redevelopment area in Canada’s iconic city.
It’s also a neighborhood, once hindered by gangs, compulsion, and vulnerability, that is now focussing on transformation by attracting newcomers while also meeting the needs of current residents.
Many would say it’s a difficult societal challenge, but Trevaun is determined to do his share of enhancing the quality of life in the area.
“I care about people and while I might not have all the answers, I can relate to the community and might be among the generation to solve one piece and then go on to fix other things,” he said.
Juggling his job as a custodian and maintenance worker with Toronto Community Housing in Lawrence Heights, Trevaun has benefitted from a small government grant that helps young people – between the ages of 15 and 25 – with his “Mind on Strength” program that cultivates skills.
As if that isn’t enough, you’ll find Trevaun working long hours at the neighborhood community centre. For him, it’s on a hardwood floor – where he developed a Friday evening basketball program that involves instructing and educating young people through sport.
“I needed to find a hook to get kids involved, to hear me and I know they all like playing basketball,” added Trevaun. “In basketball, the most important thing is character development – not scoring points. I tell younger people to have fun, it’s not about winning games, but keeping teams in good spirit, personal growth and realizing who you’re becoming.
“When I was younger, I had mentors. People cared about me and it’s now my turn to be an advisor, a part time coach and someone who can relate to young kids that while it’s so easy to take the wrong path and be a statistic, it’s time to wake up and do things the right way.”
Trevaun’ story is part of the Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO) Jumpstart Into Coaching program, which is being offered thanks to funding provided by Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.
Trevaun went to Flemington Public School where he was big on poetry and music. Then it was off to Lawrence Heights Middle School, followed by two years at Vaughan Road Academy and graduation from John Polyani Collegiate. He then benefitted from a personal training course on business and nutrition, cultivated his skills, and was hired at the North York General Hospital as an attendant that served food to patients.
It was work experience, developing contacts, looking for opportunities and what he also called short term money to survive tough times.
Trevaun has met some interesting people along his life journey, but one individual he hasn’t is also one he admires and has inspired him. American athlete David Goggins and author of the book “Can’t Hurt Me”, has come a long way in his life. While Goggins was born with a congenital heart defect, asthma, and has grappled obesity in his life, he’s big on health and wellness.
“He gave me the best advice so far and said you’re in danger of living a life so soft, so comfortable that you would die without realizing your true potential – and that stuck with me,” said Trevaun. “He has encouraged me to always do better and it’s something I want to get across to others, too.”
Trevaun doesn’t talk much about his mentoring of junior age kids while coaching boxing or having created a documentary in 2020 during the pandemic, pointing out the struggles in the Lawrence Heights community. And there’s also the drop-in program he launched for teens, where they can learn about financial literacy, learn about mental health, seek resources – and do it all in a safe environment.
Whatever chance he gets, Trevaun informs people that his community program is about taking youth off the streets and allowing them to do something productive – rather than detrimental to their future. He also knows it can take the feeling of fear away from parents knowing that their kids are somewhere safe.
“One day, times will be a lot different in Lawrence Heights and it will be known for the right thing,” said Trevaun. “I’m always looking to make someone’s life better whether it’s being around for conversations or just showing that I care for others, and I can help change their trajectory in life.”
There’s a saying in the psychological world that nobody watches you harder than the people who hate your confidence. Trevaun continues to let his confidence shine through, hoping it rubs off on others who, like him, grew up confronted with challenges and serious struggles.
The Coaches Association of Ontario series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals who educate the use of strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training.
“My purpose was to try help the next generation make things much better.“
“I feel that I have made progress, but there will continue to be a lot more to get done. It’s all about life and making it better for younger people.”
Kwame Otchere refuses to change what he does – because it’s done for all the right reasons.
There’s no command performance. No glitzy show. For him, it’s all about finding a practical way to inspire others.
Otchere, who was born in Toronto, is on a journey. It’s one that is full of challenges and decisions. Even with all and that, comes periods of uncertainty and anxiety which he’s been able to cope with in a positive way. To achieve his values and standards, Otchere is always thinking and cautious about obstacles and confrontations.
Obsessed with motivation, this is a man who is greatly energized to do what he knows is honorable, proper and appropriate. In short, Otchere means well, strives on, and changes course only when necessary or viable.
Might sound a bit strange, but he’s also using the sport of basketball to help deliver passionate personal advice to youngsters between the ages of 12 and 24. He knows that many are infatuated with the sport and can often ramble off the slang associated with the game. Otchere’s victory is trying to enlighten them with hope and pride in their achievements, words that go beyond putting a ball in a basket.
Now 24 years old, Otchere won’t beat around the bush when it comes to communicating with a group that might show signs of vulnerability. He emphasizes that there are triumphs and confrontations in life waiting for them – but it is also something that takes an intuitive commitment on their part.
For him, the dialogue happens through coaching in a gym or in classroom-style community sessions.
It is usually Wednesday evenings at a basketball program at the Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Adult Learning Centre. On Thursday evenings, you’ll find him at the Rathburn Area Youth Office, facilitating discussions on a variety of topics ranging from community issues to dealing with conflicts to youth justice.
Caring, encouraging, and guiding. Three words that describe Otchere – and he’s even stronger when it relates to leadership skills.
Home for Otchere is in one of the approximately 60,000 rental housing units in over 2,100 buildings across Canada’s largest city. You may know it as Toronto Community Housing.
“I see things that I am not happy with – lots of violence in my area, criminal activity and I feel an obligation to help get kids off the street, away from drugs and doing something fulfilling with their lives,” said Otchere, whose family is originally from the West African country of Ghana.
“For me, I have been very fortunate to have had great parental support, a wonderful family and friends, but that’s not always the case for others.”
Having attended West Glen Junior School, Bloorlea Middle School and in the graduating class of 2016 at Silverthorn Collegiate, Otchere didn’t stop learning. He went on to earn back-to-back diplomas in Recreation and Leisure Services followed by Sport Management at Humber College. For the record, both post-secondary accomplishments came with honors academic grades.
As a self-admitted sport fanatic and former two-time high school basketball Most Valuable Player, when talking with Otchere, he leaves you with a clear direction on where his career interests are leaning. Not as an athlete, but in working with them.
That brings us to how he spends his weekdays. No surprise, he’s trying to educate and advocate for others.
For years, Otchere has heard more than enough of devastating scenarios. It has resulted in an exhausting amount of anxiety, stress, and complications. As an advocate and enthusiast, you’ll hear him repeatedly talk of his community duty. That is to do what he can to make the world a better place. Best place to start, is improving things right in his own neighborhood.
Since his graduating year at Silverthorn, Otchere has devoted countless hours working in Toronto Community Housing. It started as a Junior Camp Counsellor, and then branched out as a senior youth leader with the Lakeshore Area Multifaceted Projects (LAMP) Community Health Centre. For almost six years, he was a supervisor and leader with the City of Toronto.
“I wasn’t there to get a cheque, but to make an impactful change,” said Otchere, who said the opportunity got him plugged in to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment – especially MLSE’s LaunchPad, which is a series of sport and youth development programs aimed at enhancing healthy and active lifestyles.
“I had played basketball there and liked everything about it,” said Otchere, who has earned some National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) credentials. “The proximity, the community engagement, the social inter-acting, it was a lively and active place that I wanted to be involved in and I got hooked. It was like a magnet – and I had to be there.”
In 2021, Otchere secured his first fulltime job. It was an opportunity to use a special kind of power to bring people together. He had the work experience, also the project skills earned through education and was well motivated as a youth leader working in sport to now take the next leap – one of encouraging change for the better. Enter the task of becoming a Sport Program Lead at MLSE LaunchPad.
“This opportunity (at MLSE) comes with a great responsibility – and I don’t take it lightly,” he said. “I feel that I have made progress, but there will continue to be a lot more to get done. It’s all about life and making it better for younger people.”
Otchere remembers a biblical phrase shared with him by his twin brothers – “To whom much is given, much is expected”. It’s something that registers with him quite a bit.
Tough times have shaken him over the years. A few years ago, he lost several friends to gun violence, and harder was the death of his father, John, during the pandemic.
“I had to suppress my emotions,” said Otchere. “But things like that hit hard and never go away. My dad would have been so proud knowing what I am doing He and my mom (Florence) not only taught me to take care of myself, but to spend the time to take care of others. It might be one step at a time, but I know I am making progress.”
The Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO) series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals – like Otchere – who educate the use of strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training. Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities has also provided financial assistance in the Jumpstart Into Coaching program offered by the (CAO).
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – March 2023
“As a coach, I evaluate the priorities of each individual and keep an open mind.”
For some, the essence of satisfaction just might be a plate of poutine, that authentic Canadian dish of fries and cheese curds topped off with a brown gravy.
It may be advisable not to spend time talking about this kind of treat, when you’re in conversation with Cindy Martin, whose career involves working for a dietician.
Educated in culinary management, Martin is focussed on the importance of eating healthy.
It’s something that likely goes back to her youthful days, benefitting from family members – like her grandmother, who was a great cook of venison, duck and rabbit with various vegetables and amazing desserts.
Martin spends her time coaching people to fulfil acts of wellness to oneself for self worth and self care.
Teaching about the culture of a hearty and robust cuisine isn’t the only apprentice that Martin excels in. This amazing woman gets top marks in another type of coaching – something she has devoted countless hours to over the past 14 years.
This one involves the skill of using a bow to shoot arrows in arguably one of the most challenging competitive and recreational activities. It’s called archery, a sport that goes beyond Robin Hood and medieval history to receiving world-wide attention in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Born in Hamilton, Martin lives in Ohsweken, which is home to the Six Nations of the Grand River – the only reservein North America where all six Haudenosaunee nations live together. Her traditional Indigenous name in the Cayuga language is Eahwahewi, which means carrier of the news.
For nine years, she was also a volunteer firefighter with the Six Nations Fire Department.
Talking with her, leaves one understanding the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle.
When the focus turns from nourishments to athletics, the influence of having sound coaching reverberates around a clear understanding of sports dynamics. For Martin, having a great coach is a huge bonus for a youngster eager to learn.
“My first coaching experience was at age 22 and it was instructing kids, at the grassroots level, about canoeing and archery,” said Martin, who is very influential to youngsters and portrays skills that are effective and energetic. “I even coached my three kids to help them get a better understanding of their own interests and identify whether they like team or individual sports.”
Archery means a great deal more than aiming arrows towards a target.
“It’s an art that brings mind, body and breath together,” said Martin, who benefitted from the Aboriginal Apprentice Coach Program (AACP) that allowed coaches of Aboriginal ancestry to the Canada Games in apprenticeship roles.
“As a coach, I evaluate the priorities of each individual and keep an open mind. What is important is that I also don’t allow my ego to get in the way. Working with kids, I tell them to think about what’s important to them.”
She continues to emphasize that archery is a serious skill, that demands respect, attention, and presence. She also is quite clear that an arrow can never be taken back once it is released.
An instructor with Six Nations Archery, Martin is responsible for organizing various tournaments. In August of 2023, she’ll be competing at the World Indigenous Masters Games taking place in Ottawa.
Martin has a close connection to a pair of famous people – Tom Longboat and Pauline Johnson. She is the great-great-great niece of Longboat, the noted distance runner who was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, and the Indian Hall of Fame. Her cousin was Johnson, a Canadian author, poet, and champion of Indigenous Rights.
She has also been involved with the Tom Longboat segment in the Indigenous Sports Heroes Education component at the Sports Hall of Fame.
Coveted in the knowledge of health promotion and the benefits of physical activity, Martin has been a lightning bolt of encouragement in diabetes education, healthy lifestyles, and traditional wellness programs, to those she has worked with over almost 30 years with the Six Nations Council.
“Working in my community has been very rewarding,” said Martin. “It’s rewarding to support, encourage and empower my community members to be active, healthy and vibrant.”
As if Martin doesn’t have enough to challenge her time, she’s a creative individual and is also an author of a children’s book called “The Protector of Peach: A Haudenosaunee Story” – a beautifully illustrated history lesson about how the eagle becomes the protector of turtle island.
“As a mother, I enjoy telling my children stories about our family, our culture and history,” added Martin, who said it became clear that the experience triggered her desire to write a book for her children.
Martin has been coaching archery at the grassroots level, focussing on boys and girls 10 years and older. It was in 2008 that Martin coached her daughter at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Cowichan, British Columbia. It’s located on Vancouver Island, north-east of Victoria.
This time, her coaching skills, training, and discipline, branched out to basketball.
“We had a tough time fielding a (girls) team and I offered to coach because no one else was available,” recalled Martin. “For me, coaching is character building. I’m open-minded and look for ways to help (young people) practice their skills. It’s all about motivation and a desire to learn. I am there to guide them and correct technique.”
The Coaches Association of Ontario series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals – like Martin – who educate the use of strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training.
“It’s rewarding to support, encourage and empower my community members to be active, healthy and vibrant.”
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – February 2023
“If you believe in yourself, have dedication and pride and never quit, you’ll be a winner.”
Words from one of the greatest college coaches of all time and expressed so eloquently to people on numerous occasions.
Paul William “Bear” Bryant had the elegance of communicating messages and was a genius in his hallmark days as the football coach at the University of Alabama. Simply put, Bryant was a symbol of success in so many ways.
There are others who say that sport can bring out the best of people.
Put those two comments together and we find an individual eager to build a career in hockey operations. Motivated, enthusiastic, and committed, that’s Dustin Peltier who wants to be the next one to prosper in Canada’s National winter sport.
It should come as no surprise that Peltier, who no longer scores goals for a hockey team, instead dreams of one day getting an opportunity to lead a group of talented individuals who would benefit from so much more – including the synergy of teamwork.
For Peltier, his ambition goes beyond putting a puck in the net. It’s moving up to management where he can incorporate his education with experience in business, commerce, and sports administration. What becomes crystal clear, when talking with Peltier, is that he may have his own formula for that kind of success.
It all starts with confidence.
Determined and focussed, Peltier wants to become the next individual, from an Indigenous community, to be involved in the senior management side of the sport – and that includes the professional game. There was a time when this would have been considered a spectacle or just a one-night wonder.
Not for Peltier. He’s serious, strong-willed, and resolute.
Proud of their First Nations roots, Craig Berube and Ted Nolan are the only head coaches to get the top coaching jobs in the National Hockey League (NHL). Peltier, realizing he may have steep steps to climb, is hoping his name comes up sooner than later. His goal: to be a fulltime General Manager.
“There are lots of steps to navigate through, but that’s my ultimate goal,” he said. “I want to continue to meet people, take advantage of opportunities, continue to gain experience, and hope that one day, it happens.”
Home for Peltier is the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, a First Nation reserve on the eastern peninsula of Manitoulin Island. Known for its rich Indigenous culture, it’s about a six-hour drive northwest of Toronto.
While far from connecting with the professional hockey community, Manitoulin Island is believed to be on the largest freshwater island lake on the planet and is also home to Canada’s first European settlement.
Like most youngsters, Peltier has also had his share of hockey role models. His were former NHL greats Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman. Both are now in executive sports management roles.
While attending Manitoulin Secondary, Peltier played several years of Junior hockey with the Manitoulin Islanders and wanted to keep progressing – but his mother emphasized the priority was to be on education. Her advice was important – and Peltier took it.
Now a huge benefactor of the business marketing program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, followed by a degree in sports administration and commerce from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Peltier gained knowledge and expertise in marketing, event planning and hands-on experience, that would become quite valuable.
“I wanted to work in hockey, that was always the plan,” he said. “Networking and volunteering opportunities opened the doors, and a summer job as a teenager, helped me save money to take a program in Barrie that would involve learning to work, one day, in the professional hockey world.”
That seven-week summer program, along with his positive attitude, would lead to an opportunity – an assignment, from former Barrie Colts general manager Jason Ford. Peltier was given the test of finding talent as a scout for Northern Ontario.
“It was my first experience as a scout and I was at Laurentian at the time,” recalled Peltier who had been a minor hockey coach with players under 18 years of age associated with community level teams Wiikwemkoong. “I jumped at the opportunity and tried to make an impression.”
Building on experience and his resume, an energetic Peltier had an internship with the Ottawa Senators. That four-year experience was with the NHL team’s business development office. As an account manager, he worked with corporate clients, box owners and season ticket holders. His current role is scouting for the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“Experience, learning and taking advantage of opportunities,” said Peltier, who has completed the first level of the National Coaching Certification Program. “Doing my best, meeting people and hoping that one day the opportunity to achieve my ultimate goal comes true.”
One of his proudest moments came in 2022, after he was the successful candidate as general manager for the Ontario squad that competed in the National Aboriginal Hockey championship in Membertou, N.S. This is an annual tournament, sanctioned by Hockey Canada, that provides an opportunity for Indigenous hockey players from across Canada, to showcase their athletic abilities.
“It was, and still is, a major event and we beat Saskatchewan 3-2 in overtime to win the gold medal,” said Peltier. “Winning was great but my focus will always be on mentorship and to continue doing what I can to help young players get to the next level.”
Through the Aboriginal Apprentice Coaching Program, Peltier was selected to be with Team Ontario for the 2023 Canada Winter Games scheduled for February 18 to March 5 in Summerside, PEI.
The Coaches Association of Ontario series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals – like Peltier – who educate the use of strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training.
“Winning was great but my focus will always be on mentorship and to continue doing what I can to help young players get to the next level.”
The Aboriginal Apprentice Coach Program (AACP) provides the opportunity for each province and territory to send two (2) coaches of Aboriginal ancestry to the Canada Games in apprenticeship roles. For more information on the AACP, please click HERE.
Introducing an article series celebrating coaches from all different sports, right across the province. Veteran, multi award-winning journalist David Grossman shares their stories to inspire and show us all what is possible through the power of coaching sport in Ontario.
Craig Campbell shares his secrets for enduring coaching success. Read the Article
Christa Eniojukan could teach a Master Class on creating inclusive sport for ALL. Read the Article
Gwen Binsfeld shares her secrets for taking athletes with a disabilities to new heights. Read the Article
Jordan McFarlane is a coach, mentor and father figure to an entire community through the power of sport. Read the Article
National fencing coach Patricia Howes is always “en guarde” to take on a new challenge. Read the Article
Have you ever felt you were destined to do something? Well Sudbury’s Giuseppe Politi was destined to be a coach, ever since he was 12 years old… Read the Article
Gabbi Whitlock reveals what it takes to be selected as a Canada Games Apprentice Coach. Read the Article
Al Staats shows how being a parent-coach can take you places you may have never imagined… like Canada Games! Read the Article
How can sport help remove barriers for inner city youth? Just ask rugby coach Spencer Robinson. Read the Article
Meagan Wilson took an injury and turned it into an opportunity… to coach! Find out how her dedication to sport leadership changed her life. Read the Article
Local tennis coach Nabil Tadros serves up the priceless value of mentorship. Read the Article
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – January 2023
“I love coaching … if you build good relationships, take an interest and find out what motivates people, you can have a huge impact on a person.”
When he was a youngster, Matthew Aslett was captivated with the world of sports.
For Aslett, whenever there was an opportunity, he would be running cross country races through hills and valleys for his school, experimenting with curling, or just finding ways to stay physically fit and have fun.
Fondness was, and still is, a sport that was believed to have started somewhere in the 12th century in England – soccer. For him, it became a priority playing at the club level and when he attended St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic Secondary School in Oakville.
Aslett recalls once dreaming of what it would be like to step on to the field as a professional player. He would learn that dreams are good and often enhance creativity as well as health benefits.
The days of becoming a soccer legend would be replaced by other fortuitous opportunities.
Competency, skillfulness, and efficiency would, one by one, become part of his daily lifestyle.
It would all lead to something even more gratifying – and, for him, many moments to have a bigger impact than scoring a goal.
Passionate about almost everything, Aslett’s goal would become more personal. That of providing leadership, training, and guidance. Aware of his commitment to society, his journey through life focuses as an educator and coach.
It was Thomas Monson, an American religious leader, and author, who had something to say about relationships.
“When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are,” said Monson. “When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they will become what they should be.”
Now in his mid-20’s, Aslett fits those words.
A scholar in many aspects of the word, he’s a teacher, an official and adores coaching.
Aslett is also the recipient of many awards including a prestigious coaching excellence award presented in 2021 by the Coaches Association of Ontario and Hydro One. The citation recognizes the huge amount of time devoted to improving individuals whom they coach.
“I love coaching,” he said. “If you build good relationships, take an interest and find out what motivates people, you can have a huge impact on a person.”
Aslett attributes his infatuation with coaching and educating, to the mentorship he received from his parents and teachers. People, he said in a telephone conversation, who constantly inspired and encouraged him to participate, get involved and contribute to the community in a positive way.
Well educated in areas that range from business and commerce to science and management, there’s also the world of education, leadership and policy that has him continuing a thirst for knowledge. With educational degrees from Queen’s University and Niagara University, as well as studying at Bocconi University in Italy, Aslett is pursuing a Doctorate – and doing it while teaching high school students in Burlington.
Oh yes, he’s coaching soccer, too.
His initiation to coaching – something he sees as listening, understanding, viewing with accuracy and thoughtfulness, and then garnishing with feedback for development started when he was a student in grade 9.
“I wasn’t that superstar athlete, so I had wanted to be the underdog that would motivate and mold others to becoming great people,” he said. “When I was 14 years old, it was all about winning, but then learned that the real victory was individual growth.”
Aslett got a wake-up call as a teenager. After contributing to his team making the league soccer championship, he wasn’t chosen to the starting roster. In fact, he never set foot on the field. It was a final that his team, favored to win, instead tasted defeat.
“There were better guys, who had played competitive sports, and that left me with the perception that I just wasn’t good enough,” said Aslett, who recalled his parent’s encouragement to learn from experiences and never quit. “As I look back, winning is great, but at that level I believe everyone should be involved in all capacities of the game and taste the experience of competing in a final.”
That experienced changed Aslett’s awareness and attitude as a coach.
“When I coach, I wear the hat of an educator,” said Aslett, the recipient of a 2022 award for excellence in teacher preparation. “My job is to be a role model and mentor. Coaches can have a positive and negative impact. I’d like to hope that always building on communication, I want to make experiences better for people.”
Humble in many ways, Aslett understands that when one displays personal respect, it leads to others showing mutual respect. He focusses on approaching every day with inspiration leaving students – in the classroom, and on the soccer field, with a clear message.
“Just do your best, work hard and motivate yourself to be that much better each day,” he said. “Where I am today is my biggest reward, it’s a special responsibility that allows me to do what I enjoy. In doing that, I have an impact on helping others set goals, planning a path of action and recognizing improvement.”
“Winning is great, but at that level I believe everyone should be involved in all capacities of the game and taste the experience of competing in a final.”
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – December 2022
“I see the big reward of being able to coach and watch others grow with experience and confidence. That means a great deal to me.”
There is something about the desirable attributes of an individual that can leave a lasting positive impression.
When the name Nabil Tadros is mentioned, integrity also enters the picture. Same for professionalism, and being a guy with just a genuine enthusiastic approach to making things better for so many.
Coaching can be a revelation for some, but it has been a huge part in the life of Tadros.
Cultivating the growth of the sport, at the amateur level, with personal advice, knowledge, and experience, has been his life for some 40 years – and he shows no sign of stopping.
As a youngster growing up in Egypt until he, and his family, moved to Canada in 1964, Tadros had his limitations in the world of sport. It was at the age of five, while watching his parents play tennis, that he took a liking to a sport that requires hitting a ball over a net with a racquet.
Sounds easy, but often it’s not. There’s a technique that involves a combination of agility, mental fortitude, strength and, yes, a strategy. Okay, some luck, too.
For Tadros, enthusiasm grew – and so did the fun of hitting a small white table tennis ball against his bedroom wall. Oh, yes, there was the time, when his shot went a bit astray and he knocked over a picture that shattered the glass frame.
The admiration for sport would skyrocket during his grade 8 year at St. Timothy Catholic School in Toronto. Tadros, enthusiastically, says it has to do with two key people, and points to physical education teachers Don Bannon and John Herman.
“I was influenced by some great coaches over the years, but I truly hit the jackpot with (Herman and Bannon),” recalled Tadros. “The encouragement and support they gave me is something I will never forget. Looking back, I believe they played a big part in my decision to go on and teach and coach.”
Tadros didn’t waste any time learning to play a variety of sports – and did well in some more than others.
Attending Brebeuf College, an all-boys Catholic high school, Tadros would compete for medals in various under-18 Singles tennis tournaments. On the hardwood, he was also a City of Toronto basketball all-star. At the community level, Tadros was selected as the Most Valuable Player in boys’ soccer with the Don Valley Village Association.
“It was such a great feeling knowing that I was involved in so many sports, had so much fun and learned a great deal about sportsmanship, teamwork and respect for others,” said Tadros, who would move on to study physical education at the University of Toronto.
There was a time, Tadros admits, when teaching wasn’t in his plans.
For some reason, he was tinkering with an administrative government job in parks and recreation. That didn’t work. Tadros got the hint that his leadership role in a classroom and gym would take over.
“At U of T, I was getting a great education and also played tennis and basketball – it was the best of both worlds,” added Tadros, who would be on a 1980 team that won the Ontario Universities Athletic Association (OUAA) championship.
“All the while, I knew what coaches had done for me and I just wanted to do the same for others who would get the same enjoyment and satisfaction that I have had.”
As a graduate of the Toronto Teacher’s College and then enhancing his education with a Master’s degree from Niagara University, Tadros would incorporate a 30-year teaching career with thousands of hours of coaching.
To be exact, he’s coached tennis at the University of Toronto for 38 years. Toss in many years of voluntary coaching at the high school level.
The Coaches Association of Ontario series, “Empowering Stories from behind the Bench”, continues to put the spotlight on individuals – like Tadros – who merge excellence in teaching with the strong coaching fundamentals of improvement, guidance, and training.
It wasn’t until his sixth year of teaching high school that Tadros got the message – one that made him understand how he could engage and inspire student athletes.
“It hit me, it all made sense and I saw that coaching really was a good thing for young people,” said Tadros. “There are always ways, outside of the formal classroom, that can become huge for teaching and helping people learn social skills – and doing it through sports is fabulous.”
While some recent statistics show the average Ontario coach impacts more than 350 athletes over a coaching lifetime, Tadros has exceeded this number – and by far.
When asked to talk about his accomplishments and awards, Tadros likes to be low key.
“It’s nice to be recognized, I’m getting older and really appreciate everything,” he said. “It’s an honor, but I see the big reward being that of being able to coach and watch others grow with experience and confidence. That means a great deal to me.”
From student and athlete at U of T (basketball from 1978 to 1981 and tennis from 1980 to 1981), Tadros was appointed head coach of tennis in 1984. He may very well be one of the top coaches in university tennis in Canada after his men’s and women’s teams won an incredible combined 18 Ontario university championships.
Tadros has been recognized for his contribution to athletics as a recipient of a University of Toronto Arbor Award, the Toronto Raptors/Ontario Basketball Association Coaches Recognition citation, Ontario high school coaching recognition, and as a six-time Ontario University Coach of the Year. He was also inducted to the University of Toronto Sports Hall of Fame.Now retired from teaching, when he’s away from coaching sports, Tadros continues to look for ways to help others. He’s made several trips back to Egypt, and often had sports teams with him, with suitcases full of items to donate to others in need.
“I understand that times are tough, and in so many ways, for lots of people,” he said. “As a youngster, I will never forget receiving two special trophies from the Don Valley Village Association for being an MVP in tennis and soccer. “That meant a great deal to me, but so does coaching and seeing the smiles and enjoyment as well as getting the satisfaction of giving sports equipment, toys and clothing to people in need.”
“There are always ways, outside of the formal classroom, that can become huge for teaching and helping people learn social skills – and doing it through sports is fabulous.“
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – November 2022
“I learned, and now my players do the same thing. we learn from the mistakes of others, to make things better…”
She does things her way and, in doing so, continues to exhibit a combination of admirable qualities that range from courage and honor to courtesy and respect.
Her name is Meagan Wilson. There are many with the same name, but only one with what many would say as having one of those compassionate stories that makes you understand the challenge of human power and struggle.
Wilson is a woman fulfilling personal dreams – and she’s doing it through the world of sport.
Over the years, proving that academics and athletics are a good combination, Wilson was a multi-sport athlete. She achieved academic honors as a student in an enrichment program during her younger days at Lansdowne-Costain Public School in Brantford.
Born on the Six Nations Reserve, Wilson would later move to the nearby big city that would be known for more than being the home of Graham Bell, the telephone inventor. Add the place that raised a hockey player called Gretzky and the plant that made Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Brantford was home for Wilson, too.
Several years later, she would return to live on the Reserve with her mother.
As a youngster burgeoning with interest, it wasn’t until she had turned 13, that Wilson would become enamored with a sport played by almost seven million people around the world. Yes, rugby.
For years, she had watched her older brother play the game that continues to dominate the area, located some 30 minutes north of Lake Erie and west of Toronto. It wasn’t until she entered grade 9 at Brantford Collegiate, that Wilson opted to see how she would manage in a physical game that also had its share of excitement.
“My mom (Melanie) loved to see me getting involved in sport,” said Wilson, who was raised by a single parent. “We would later come up with the idea of offering a rugby program in our community to get young girls involved and active.”
She would learn quickly, dominate in many ways, and would play a major part, not just as Most Valuable Player on the team, but as one that encouraged teammates to aim for the top. They did just that, winning away three consecutive city championships.
Then came the accolades that went with an Ontario high school rugby gold medal. Wilson had an opportunity to go bigger and train with Indigenous youth at a special program in British Columbia. It also happened to be taking place on the grounds of Shawnigan Lake School – a private educational institution on Vancouver Island.
Heading to Canada’s west coast turned out to be a brilliant move in more ways than one.
People witnessed her success, tenacity, and tremendous perseverance. Then came a scholarship for her grade 12 year, one that would take care of room, board, and tuition. When Wilson returned to Ontario, she had already caught the attention of recruiting coaches, and would shuffle off to McMaster University in Hamilton.
A charismatic and fierce competitor, rugby had taken over her life.
She studied social sciences – but also helped McMaster win an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) rugby title, followed by a Canadian (USports) university championship.
Medals, accomplishments, a fondness for the sport, people who knew Wilson were also aware that rugby was important to her. They could see her certainty and confidence as well as the personal power and the nerves of steel.
But everything would come to a grinding halt in 2016. She had to deal with a genuine crisis – one that involved damage to a medial collateral ligament in her left leg suffered in a game. It was a major tear with superb treatment from authorities at McMaster. Then, six weeks of inactivity.
“Rugby was so important to me and then came the injury,” she recalled, having been the recipient of the Seven Grandfather’s Award from McMaster for her efforts with Indigenous youth sport.
Wilson would recover and return to the line-up for the Canadian university national playoffs in Victoria but did not play much of the tournament. McMaster would finish in the bottom four teams.
“To me, being recognized (for the award) was special but the injury was a disaster. I was also frustrated for some reason, things just went whacky for a bit. I was a 19-year-old and rugby became a chore and less fun. In fact, school also didn’t mean much anymore.”
The break may have been just what Wilson needed.
“I went on to work in various part time jobs at a gas station, a restaurant and looked for other post secondary options,” said Wilson, who earned a diploma after two years. “I had wanted a taste of freedom. As a player, I was always so busy. Then, when I became bored, I returned to rugby – but with a small club. I didn’t care about the outcome, met great people, and played for fun.”
In 2017, she became serious about coaching, and has been involved in delivering 10 camps and introducing rugby to over 200 First Nations youth in Ontario. Wilson didn’t need a reminder for big moments and key games. Not only was she in a precarious position, but she had to find ways to be physically and mentally sound. She also wasn’t one to throw up her arms in frustration and surrender a game she had adored.
That same year came the idea to start what has now become a popular co-educational club – Iroquois Roots Rugby where she is the head coach. With the credentials coming from attending a National Coaching Certification Program Wilson has focussed on planning, organizing, and delivering programs – aimed at techniques and skills – for a variety of boys and girls in different age groups.
“It’s not just about getting on the field with a ball, but the importance of tradition and culture,” she said. “It’s very important for us to provide Indigenous youth with a sense of respect for each other and the communities they represent.”
In 2018, Wilson was honored with a Grassroots Coach Award by the Coaches Association of Ontario at its annual Ontario Coaching Excellence Awards in Toronto. The recognition brought emotional tears, as well as renewing a commitment to inspire young girls – especially in the Iroquois Confederacy of Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora communities – to learn and play rugby.
She had seen the signs of progress and went on to coach the first all-Indigenous rugby team in Ontario at the Great North 7’s tournament in 2019, followed by another appearance at the Q-Meta Cup, part of the Rugby Ontario series of events.
“I lived on a Reserve and there were times when I had struggled to fit in with others,” said Wilson, who is currently doing a Bachelor of Indigenous Social Work (on-line) through Laurentian University.
“I learned, and now my players do the same thing. We learn from the mistakes of others, to make things better and I just love coaching those under six years old in the introduction to rugby program.”
“It’s very important for us to provide Indigenous youth with a sense of respect for each other and the communities they represent.”
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – October 2022
“Coaching is like life. It’s what you put into it and make of it. Life always throws a few curveballs, so you’re learning all the time.”
Life can regularly have its challenges and often when confronted with imperfections.
There are always dazzling success stories in the world of sport that are focussed on the celebrity, the Olympic gold medalist, the un-expected contenders, along with the dominance of athleticism and the raging competitive fire that goes with it.
They are what some would portray as “glimpses of stardom” in one event after another. Yet, what is often missing, are the years of countless stories involving athletes, many who move on to become coaches who impact the lives of others in a positive and conclusive way.
It can mean a great deal more than a medal or trophy.
Spencer (Spence) Robinson, Toronto-born and who has lived in Guyana, was an athlete who benefitted from mentors and educators. He’s been a coach, too. That is what has allowed him to use his experience and knowledge to provide individuals with the same kind of advice and tutoring that he benefitted from as a youngster.
Now, the university-educated Robinson is embarking on an audacious project.
As the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coach of Youth Rugby and Belonging with the Toronto Inner-City Rugby Foundation (TIRF), his mission is to change attitudes and cultural relationships. The goal is to help diversify the sport of rugby for the communities who embrace it.
TIRF is the acronym for the community development organization that strengthens involvement by promoting opportunities for those in under-served and low-income neighbourhoods in the largest city in Canada.
Robinson has faced challenges before – and each one ended in a realization of accomplishment and triumph.
“Cooperation and understanding are very important in life and sports, like rugby, is a vehicle that I have used to help young people build character,” he said. “It’s something that I believe will sustain them beyond their playing years. Building self-esteem is crucial for a young person and that also is true towards coaching.”
Robinson grew up in Pickering, a community just east of Toronto and in Durham Region. His introduction to rugby came as a student at Dunbarton High School, whose teams were traditionally strong and often took rugby tours to the British Isles. A 5-foot-7, 150-pound youngster back then, Robinson had speed, agility and strength in a sport that also had lots of physical contact.
“My parents were shocked that as a kid with a Caribbean background, I was interested in rugby more than cricket and soccer,” Spencer recalled. “For me, good coaching and patience were the keys, and I could also learn from other guys of which several were National and Provincial team members.”
Big things happened for Robinson after playing at York University for two years before moving to the West coast to attend the University of Victoria and play for that school team. At age 23, his career goal of teaching had shifted to a different kind of contact – that of firefighting and repelling from helicopters to tackle fires often on the sides of mountains.
Coaching entered his life while a student at York, and around the time he was playing for the Ajax Wanderers Rugby Club. There was interest from girls to start a club team and Robinson was all for it. He even remembers winning his first game as a coach.
The coaching bug would hit him again in British Columbia where, in 1991, he was involved in the start-up of a women’s program at the University of Victoria.
“It’s just part of my makeup and an opportunity to help people,” said Robinson, who said he combined playing experience with natural instincts, good mentors, and studies in the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). “Coaching is like life. It’s what you put into it and make of it. Life always throws a few curveballs, so you’re learning all the time.”
Thirty-six years as a coach and 25 as a municipal firefighter, Robinson recently retired as Captain at the Esquimalt Fire Department located in a township on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It was a job he did, not for rewards – but to save lives.
Having returned to Ontario, Robinson’s next objective may very well be his most arduous and energetic. For the former Canadian national men’s and women’s rugby team coach, with experience involving both seven and 15-player squads, it amounts to doing what he can to remove barriers for inner city youth. Robinson’s plan is to start with rugby and education.
“My role is to put words into action and get more diverse coaches and players involved in the sport,” he said. “You start somewhere, so why not with the bigger challenge in a city like Toronto, where there’s so much to go after.
“I want to make a huge difference and not for me, but for the lives of others. It’s time to light a spark and change attitudes, mindset, and develop a cultural relationship.”
Now taking on a major initiative, one that will see TIRF assistance greatly reduce the financial, geographical, and cultural barriers, Robinson believes positive results will happen.
With more than 30 years coaching experience, Robinson led a variety of rugby sevens programs at local, regional, provincial, and national team levels in both the men’s and women’s game. Now, he’s confident about what lies ahead.
“With me it’s never ability, it’s effort and we’re looking for top-level effort,” he said. “Coaching is everything to me and it can also take place off the field. I now have a huge opportunity to help with Canada’s cultural mosaic.”
“Building self-esteem is crucial for a young person and that also is true towards coaching.”
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – July 2022
“When you view the role of a sports coach, it’s fantastic. It’s like you’re being a mentor, or teacher, and get to see athletes conquer fears, overcome obstacles, learn new skills, and have fun.”
You may not have heard of the new documentary show called “Every Second Counts”. That’s fine, but you are likely aware of the Emmy-award winning reality series called the “Amazing Race”.
Gabbi Whitlock may have, in her own way, started another fascinating competition. But, of a slightly different nature.
Having coached triathletes for 25 years, she’s now picking up the tempo to get more people actively involved in an endurance multi-sport race that encompasses various distances in swimming, cycling, and running.
Her goal is to, one day, see an assortment of Canada-wide provincial triathlon championships at the high school, college, and university levels. The triathlon is not considered a varsity sport at educational institutions, but things can change over time – and, especially, with increasing interest and participation.
Bright and energetic, Whitlock is quite optimistic – and thinks it’s possible.
She’s banking on young people benefitting from viewing other family members, even friends, taking part for pure enjoyment. Other people compete for a variety of awards. There’s also something catching the attention of many people. It’s called physical fitness.
“It might start in small pockets, but at least it’ll be a start,” said Whitlock, who is head coach of the Balance Point Triathlon Club in London, Ont.
“Unlike in other sports, where there is a grassroots system, that doesn’t exist in triathlon. I’m hoping to run a club for kids and their families. Once kids see their parents involved, maybe it will motivate them, too. That’s my goal.”
Whitlock fully understands that most people don’t swim 1,500 metres, then bike 40 kilometres and finish with a 10 kilometres run. That’s the Olympic way. While there are establishes distances for youth, her idea is to come up with distances more suitable for youngsters.
Originally from Toronto, Whitlock works for Western University as a research officer in the Dean’s Office in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. In short, her job is helping faculty apply for grants that investigate a variety of topics. Time management must be another strength as she also coaches competitive swimmers at the London Aquatic Club.
For those not acquainted with this challenging, and demanding sport, the triathlon was believed to have been invented in the 1970’s by the San Diego Track Club.
Folks at the California organization saw it as an alternative workout to the rigours of training by running around a track. The club’s first event consisted of a 10 kilometres run, an eight kilometres cycle and a 500 metres swim.
Just mentioning those numbers can make anyone ask for a short time out to take a breather.
The triathlon made its Olympic debut in Australia back in 2000, when Sydney hosted the Summer Games. Time for some trivia. Canada’s Simon Whitfield won the inaugural gold medal. The popularity could take a boost, but that will require participation and education.
For Whitlock, who volunteered to coach at the 2018 Ontario Summer Games in London, a few years later, she was chosen as a Canada Games Apprentice coach. Ask her about the role of a coach and if she’s enjoying the challenge that goes with it, and you may be surprised with her response.
“For me, and I am sure for many others, coaching is a passion and something that is very rewarding,” said Whitlock, who is a trained in cycling but a certified coach in swimming, personal training, as well as strength and conditioning.
“When you view the role of a sports coach, it’s fantastic. It’s like you’re being a mentor or teacher, and get to see athletes conquer fears, overcome obstacles, learn new skills, and have fun.”
One of the few women in Canada certified in the National Coaches Certification Program (NCCP) as a competition development triathlon coach, Whitlock also knows quite a bit about kinesiology and sports psychology. Admitting that she’s never been the athlete that stands on an awards podium, she’s a winner in other ways – including participation.
Whitlock is also a firm believer in giving back to the community. For her, it’s through coaching.
“The apprenticeship experience gave me confidence in my skills as a coach and pushed me to continue what am I doing and always look for ways to get better,” said Whitlock, who attempted an Ironman Triathlon in Texas in 2019 – and finished it.
That one encompassed a 3.8 kilometres swim, then a bike course of 180 kilometres and finished with a 42.2 kilometres run. Nothing to it, right?
A competitive swimmer in her younger years, entering the world of coaching may have started for Whitlock when she was a 15-year-old. That’s when she pitched in to help with the Scarborough Swim Club.
Five years later, on her way to getting a Degree in Psychology at Western, she enhanced on that coaching life by helping the triathlon club at the same university. She’s also coached the Provincial Development Team at camps for Triathlon Ontario.
“Triathlon encompasses so many people in many ways and at all ability levels,” said Whitlock, who has coached hundreds in the sport. “I see those as young as four years and up to 70 years of age who are involved. The challenge is to keep them – and build on it.”
“The apprenticeship experience gave me confidence in my skills as a coach and pushed me to continue what am I doing and always look for ways to get better.”
CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – June 2022
“Coaching grows on you and there is a desire to keep learning, educating and helping others become the best they can.”
You work hard and always try to do the right thing.
It’s fair to assume, but that’s the logical approach to life. Examining the options, chances are you’re bound to have some deliberations, questions, and setbacks. Yet, there is the ability to strive forward and make things better.
That’s the route taken by Giuseppe Politi.
Not many people residing south of Sudbury may know of this man, but that will change by the time you finish reading this story. Building relationships can be a bonus on the road to success, and Politi, has accomplished that with much prosperity.
For him, soccer has made up a good chunk of his life. It’s something he’s quite passionate about. As a 12-year-old, he was observed drawing out formations and planning strategies for a soccer team. The teen days continued to show signs of a future in coaching, while growing up in what is now Canada’s fifth largest metropolis and once known as the city that nickel built.
While Sudbury has an Ontario Hockey League team, a club in the Northern Football Conference, a National Basketball League of Canada entry, and hosted the Brier as well as the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) and Pan Am championships, something is missing.
That’s soccer – a sport where Canada’s women’s team won a recent Olympic gold medal and the men qualified for the 2022 World Cup, ending a 36-year drought.
It can be a tough job building a sports venue in a part of the country where geography dictates that some 100 days a year, the temperature never rises above zero degrees Celsius. That hasn’t stopped Politi – a teacher in many ways.
After years of the community pleading for an indoor facility, things changed with a new $4.1 million soccer dome. The pandemic, yes – that one – has shut down the facility leaving soccer fans with a choice to play in the inclement weather, wait for a re-opening, hold off for the summer, or look for other opportunities.
While frustrated at times, Politi has forged ahead, doing what he can to shine the spotlight on the sport, getting people involved, coaching, advising, and so much more. A licensed coach in Canada, the United States and Europe, and short of being called “Mr. Soccer of the North”, he’s boosted soccer participation.
Politi’s priority has been focussed on a fulltime job in the classroom. For the past 13 years, he has taught at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School. He’s also coached soccer.
Juggling many hats may be a term that fits Politi, who is quite passionate about a sport that he believes deserves more notoriety. With coaching and teaching both vital, Politi continues his mission of trying to make the sport better for those residing in Northern Ontario.
“Soccer (and sport in general) has afforded me some of the best experiences and life moments,” said Politi, who credits the on-going support given to him as a player, coach, and leader, by his mother – Antonietta Politi. “It is my hope to pass it along to the next generation and improve the game in the North as best I can.”
Focussed on player development, the advancement of coaches, high performance results, governance, and standards, it all comes down to participation, knowledge, and an understanding that the sport is one of the most popular ones on the planet.
A true maverick and renaissance man who blazed his own trail, Politi has made a difference to so many.
He has taken on a technical and advisory coaching role with the Nipissing District Soccer Club in North Bay. Same focus with the Soo City United in Sault Ste. Marie, and the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club. Big task. Lots of travel. That, in addition to being a learning facilitator for Ontario Soccer, the provincial governing body for the sport.
What isn’t missing is his dedication to getting the task done well.
A native of Sudbury, Politi got hooked on the game at an early age, played soccer at St. Charles College, then briefly at St. Leo University in Tampa, and both Laurentian and Brock University, before pursuing opportunities as a coach, referee, and administrator.
“I just love soccer, put in huge hours, and spent lots of money on coaching education,” he said. “I just want to make the game better at the grassroots level, give young people an opportunity to learn, play and when the season is over, think about registering for the following year.”
Connecting with thousands of athletes, parents, and coaches, soccer to him is like flesh and blood. He just can’t live without it.
The Coaches Association of Ontario, in its popular series “Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench” singled out Politi with the 2018 Trailblazer Coach Award, recognizing his strong ability to help young players build on their skills, develop a strong knowledge of the game, and pursue it as a healthy activity for life.
“Teaching people to play soccer and others to coach is very rewarding to me,” said Politi, who has earned some of the highest coaching credentials. “One of my former coaches, Tom Ryan, hung on to a drawing that I made as a youngster with soccer formations. Some 20 years later, he gave it to me showing that, back then, he saw potential of me becoming a coach.
“Coaching grows on you and there is a desire to keep learning, educating and helping others become the best they can,” he said. “For some, its competing at a higher level while others play for fun and always need the support of a coach.”
“I just want to make the game better at the grassroots level, give young people an opportunity to learn, play and when the season is over, think about registering for the following year.”