CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench article series – September 2023
“As a coach, they always know that I am there for them. I’ve had kids come back and share great memories and the friendships that last a lifetime. It’s a remarkable feeling.”
By David Grossman
There was a time when the legendary Canadian country and folk singer/songwriter “Stompin Tom” Connors created a song back in 1971, that gave notoriety to the small Southern Ontario town of Tillsonburg, about 50 kilometres southeast of London.
Hold on, there’s another individual in this community at the junction of Highways 3 and 19 that, although not as popular in the world of music, has certainly gained notoriety by producing a form of beauty, harmony, as well as various expressions of emotion in a different way.
Rebecca (Becky) Turrill has never been one for receiving personal awards. That will now change.
For the past 30 years, there has been a commitment by her to helping many boys and girls get an early start on learning about things like mutual trust and friendship – all while having fun. For her, doing what she does for several decades, is all about happiness.
Within the Tillsonburg Ringette organization, Turrill devotes long hours of volunteer work with one of the many teams. For her, it’s with the Tiny Twisters – and she’s the head coach.
For those not familiar with ringette, it’s a sport that has been around for some 60 years. Played on an ice surface, skates, sticks with drag-tips, and a blue rubber ring are part of the game. It’s as close as you get to hockey, but it isn’t. In fact, the next World Ringette Championship takes place later this year in Calgary.
For Turrill, known to many in the community as “Coach Becky”, her audience has had as many as 53 boys and girls on the ice at one time. All are under the age of six and they gather twice each week at the local community centre.
Looking on are a slew of parents who, day-by-day, see their own anxiety get replaced by watching children have fun and benefitting from a woman who thrives on success and enjoyment.
When she was a youngster, Turrill didn’t know much about ringette. She grew up in the community of Springford. Check a map, and you’ll see it’s that dot located slightly northeast of Tillsonburg.
For her, it was quite common seeing cows stroll through the family backyard. Softball was something she enjoyed, but so was playing the saxophone in the school band at Glendale High School.
As a teenager, she worked at the recreational centre. She was a youth leader and dreamed of one day becoming a teacher. Instead, after graduation, Turrill started working in customer service and is now a Program and Facility Registrar, which focuses on entering programs in the software system. She knows all about multi-tasking responsibilities with bookings for a variety of facilities, entering seasonal contracts and getting people signed up for recreational programs.
Married, a mother of two, a fulltime job, Turrill still finds time to also coach – something she started at age 16.
“Back then, it was coaching co-ed softball, then it became baseball and when my daughter played ringette, it looked like fun, so I got involved,” said Turrill, who has her Level 2 in the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). “Ringette looked intriguing, I didn’t know much about it, so I did my research and went on to realize that I could coach the basics for little kids.”
Always finding ways to stay inspired, Turrill is an individual emboldened with patience and enthusiasm. Skates need tying. Helmets require buckling. Try it for several dozen kids. Good coaches develop skills and Turrill is clearly on top of her game building confidence and character with her group of, well, wobbly skaters.
She even thinks of ways to continue encouragement and motivation. There’s always a special bonus after the practise for those reaching levels of success. That’s when Turrill digs into her bag and adds stickers to helmets.
“As a coach, I treat each kid as if they were my own kids,” said Turrill, who has coached all levels of ringette in Tillsonburg at both the Regional and Provincial Levels. “There are times when I feel like I’m a mother of 50.
“You become that extra level of support and it’s a wonderful feeling seeing them learn and show respect. As a coach, they always know that I am there for them. I’ve had kids come back and share great memories and the friendships that last a lifetime. It’s a remarkable feeling.”
Remember those younger years of wanting to become a teacher? Turrill certainly has contributed to educating youngsters in other ways. She even booked a week of vacation from work to run a summer ringette camp – and did it as a volunteer.
Her work did not go un-noticed by the Coaches Association of Ontario, as Turrill became one of the recipients of a 2023 Ontario Coaching Excellence Award presented to an exemplary group of individuals in celebration of the integral role they play with individuals and teams. They are being honored during National Coaches Week in September.
“I received a phone call with the news (of the award), and I froze,” recalled Turrill. “Oh my gosh, I was flabbergasted and couldn’t speak and got extremely emotional. It hit home, my head started to spin, and I am truly honored. I don’t do what I do to get recognized, I do it to watch kids develop. I coach because I thoroughly love it.”
Turrill will also receive a $500 prize, from event sponsor Hydro One, to be used for equipment and supplies for the Tillsonburg Twisters organization. Purchases are to be made from local, Ontario or Canadian businesses.
Alysha Armstrong said Turrill has coached her daughter, Sophia, for three years and “constantly provided confidence and encouragement” leading to remarkable success in her ability to skate.
Chelsey Durham, in her letter acknowledging the great work by Turrill, said she was impressed with the “appropriate skills and activities (used) to help the wide range of skaters (Turrill) was working with to progress effectively”. Her daughter, Quinn, was almost four years old, when Turrill outgoing friendly personality helped her learn to skate.
While the accolades just keep coming for Turrill, the mentor of so many has no intentions of stopping what she has done so well for years.
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.
“I don’t do what I do to get recognized, I do it to watch kids develop. I coach because I thoroughly love it.”
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