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New blues coach brings philosophy to football

UTSC alumnus Steve Howlett

Throughout his career as a receiver in the Canadian Football League (CFL), Steve Howlett (BA 1985) had a big dream. However, it wasn’t championship rings or endorsement contracts he envisioned. He wanted to be on the sidelines. He wanted to coach.

So it’s no surprise that as the new head coach of U of T’s Varsity Blues, Howlett shines.

“I’ve always aspired to be head coach at a Canadian university and it is added pleasure that it’s here at my alma mater.”

Football has been a central part of Howlett’s life since his days as a high school quarterback. While studying sociology at UTSC, he played on the interfaculty team and was president of the athletic association.

At the time, an anthropology class he took had a profound effect on him. “I was at a critical stage at 19,” he recalls. “It was then that I really started to embrace the notion of race and ethnicity and it made me believe my calling was to affect how we treat people. I believe, as a coach, I help people discover their freedom and how they affect their world.”

Howlett played two years as a receiver with the Varsity Blues before reaching the CFL for a run with the Edmonton Eskimos and the Ottawa Roughriders from 1985-89.

When he retired from the CFL Howlett started coaching football at the junior level. He has been on the coaching teams at Carleton, St. Frances Xavier and most recently with the CFL’s new Ottawa Renegades. He also decided to go back to school as a means to enhance his coaching. While an assistant coach at the University of Ottawa, Howlett completed his masters in the field of performance psychology under the guidance of renowned sports psychologist and Ottawa U professor Terry Orlick.

Through his research, Howlett determined that mental imagery is a skill people can develop and, as a result, use their imagination to relax, reduce stress and enhance their overall living. Howlett also went on to do PhD work on phenomenology of performance at the University of Alberta.

After years away from U of T, he says it’s great to be back reconnecting with people. He is very interested in recruiting student-athletes to attend UTSC.

“I feel that my background as a Scarborough student and Varsity Blues football player make me sensitive to the issues and obstacles, and I believe that a person can have a rich experience by being involved in both the Scarborough and the downtown campus.”

Howlett’s positive outlook easily translates to his goals for the struggling Varsity Blues. “The Blues have faced some adversity and challenges,” he says. “I believe you should always be developing no matter where you are.”

Howlett says there have been times when he has considered life outside sports, but the great mentors he’s had and his passion and knowledge of football brought him to this point.

“Dreams should relate to values, what is important to you in life,” he says. “A career is just the vehicle to help drive those values.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough