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UTSC athletics leader wins Ontario coaching excellence award

AWARD-WINNING COACH: Randy Thomas, pictured in the background of a student hockey game, has won a provincial coaching excellence award. (Photo by Joseph George.)

by Robert Onley

Randy Thomas, co-director of U of T Scarborough athletics and recreation, was recently selected by the Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO) for a 2010 Ontario Coaching Excellence Award in the category of male development coaching.

Cited for his dedication, leadership and many accomplishments both as coach and as an athletics professional for UTSC, Thomas was acknowledged for his contributions to coaching in Ontario at the Ontario Coaching Excellence Awards Gala Dinner in Guelph. The award was one of only four handed out to male and female coaches across Ontario each year.

Thomas (BA 1985) has worked at UTSC for more than 30 years, coaching for 25 of those years. In 21 seasons as coach of the intramural tri-campus men’s hockey team, Thomas and his players went to the finals 14 times, winning five championships for UTSC. Thomas has also coached touch- and tackle-football at UTSC, along with occasional basketball and lacrosse games.

Letters of recommendations for Thomas’s nomination came from across the UTSC athletics community, with many hockey alumni providing the impetus to put Thomas’s name forward.

“Athletics is my passion and I love it, but I didn’t set out to win any awards when I started the job,” Thomas says. “My greatest source of pride has always been in watching long-lasting friendships and connections grow out of UTSC’s athletics program.”

The letters supporting Thomas’s nomination highlight the positive impact he has had on individuals in the UTSC athletics program. Emphasizing Thomas’s focus on individual growth, one hockey alumnus said that while “Randy constantly focused on skill development and actually winning hockey games, he placed a premium on helping the members of our team further themselves as people and leaders.”

Thomas’s leadership and legacy continue to extend to alumni events long after players graduate. When one of Thomas’s former hockey players was diagnosed with cancer, Thomas rallied the other hockey alumni to the player’s side to boost his spirits. But when he sadly lost his battle with the disease, Thomas again exemplified his lifetime commitment to his players by suggesting that the players re-name the annual UTSC fundraiser alumni golf tournament as The Steve Scheklesky Memorial Golf Tournament in the player’s memory. Half of the funds raised in the tournament go into an education trust fund established for Scheklesky’s young daughter.

Asked about fond coaching memories, Thomas recalls his first season as coach of the tri-campus men’s hockey team. That year, with players who were completely unknown to him, the team nevertheless managed to win the championship while only losing one game all season. Thomas says, “That was a real lesson in learning how to lead.”

Similarly, Thomas also recalls playing at the Hershey Centre for the 2007 East-West Classic, the much-hyped annual first game of the regular hockey season between U of T Scarborough and U of T Mississauga. “We lost horribly and were completely embarrassed by UTM, but once again never lost a game after that and ended up winning the championship.”

Thomas says he is excited about UTSC’s successful bid for the 2015 Pan American Games, the legacy of which offers a “terrific chance to grow the campus athletics community long after the Games are over.”

Thomas further notes that UTSC has always had a highly successful team sports program. “The new athletics facility is an opportunity to let our imaginations wander, not simply to provide more space for existing sports programs, but also to create totally new athletics experiences for students and to increase participation across the entire campus.”

The Coaches Association of Ontario is an independent, non-profit organization providing representation and recognition for coaches in a variety of contexts. The association is “coach-led” and accountable to its members who are coaches in all sports.

Robert Onley is a 2009 political science graduate from UTSC and played on the men’s tri-campus hockey team from 2006-2009 and the 2008 championship-winning team. He is currently studying law at the University of Windsor.




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