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Soccer alumnus named to U of T Sports Hall of Fame

GOOD SPORTS: U of T Scarborough alumnus Mark Purdy (left) is pictured in front of his university photo from the 1980s. He is congratulated by Bruce Kidd, Dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, during Purdy's recent induction into the U of T Sports Hall of Fame. (Photo by Jing-Ling Kao-Beserve.)

by Rosalyn Solomon

A talented soccer player and alumnus from the University of Toronto Scarborough has been inducted into the U of T Sports Hall of fame.

Mark Purdy was recognized for his contributions to the University of Toronto Blues Varsity soccer team in the 1980s, and for his long list of athletic accomplishments while he was a student and afterwards.

Purdy served as captain of the Blues soccer team for three years. During his time as a member, the team won two championship titles, made three trips to the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (CIAU) championships, achieved two CIAU semi-final placements and won the 1986-87 CIAU silver medal -- not to mention the fact that the team lost only five games in the five years Purdy was a member. 

Purdy credits the success of the soccer team not to just one player. He said the mix of seasoned and new athletes was what made the soccer team so formidable.

“We had a good blend of youth and experience. Some players had been there for two or three years but we also had some rookies, so that combination of youth, enthusiasm and experience made a big difference,” he said.

Purdy, 43, was born in England, and moved as a toddler to Belfast, where he said his passion for soccer took root.

“I’ve loved soccer probably since I could walk,” he said. “For the first seven years of my life I played soccer in the streets of Belfast --- just the way the kids play road hockey here.”

Purdy lived in North York when he attended the University of Toronto Scarborough from 1982 to 1987, taking a double major in Commerce and Economics. He got the good news about the induction while on a trip abroad.

"I was actually in Moscow, Russia, on business when I heard. I felt pretty honoured to get the call. It was great,” said Purdy.

He received his Hall of Fame award on May 23 during a ceremony held at Hart House on the St. George campus downtown, along with other alumni athletes, teams and coaches. This year’s inductees were selected from a list of 350 nominees.

Among all of the fond memories Purdy has from the road trips, the practices and the games at Varsity stadium, he says his favourite soccer memory involves his wife Emma.

“I first met my wife at co-ed soccer on a Friday afternoon, so my favourite memory is of us playing blitz soccer.”

Considering that the Blues had such a successful run, Purdy said the biggest challenge as a student-athlete was just that – finding the balance between playing and studying.

“There were practices or games four or five times a week and then trying to maintain my marks and get all of my readings done was a difficult balance,” he said.

However, Purdy also said maintaining a focus on what he wanted to do and achieve helped him find a medium to handle both responsibilities.

Purdy also played overseas in England for a year before completing his degree. After graduating, he played for the Toronto Blizzard and Hamilton Steelers in the Canadian Soccer League for five years.

Although Purdy was finished school, he faced the same balancing act while he worked for IBM. “I’m pretty disciplined on getting things done, when I left U of T, I played professional soccer at the same time, I held a full time job and played soccer six times a week -- I was used to it by that time”.

Among his numerous accomplishments, Purdy was nominated for athlete of the year in 1986 at U of T, was the OUAA All Star for four years, and was four-time MVP of the Queen’s Invitational, while he was a member of the Blues.

Although he no longer plays soccer professionally, Purdy said he still plays the sport for fun. For two years, he has also been coaching the Ajax Madrid team for boys under 8 years old. He also plays golf and hockey.

He has also passed on his love of the game to his three children, all of whom play soccer: Connor, 9, Cameron, 7, and Alexis, 2.

Purdy, a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), now works as Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer (CIO) for Arrow Hedge Partners Inc., an investment management company in Toronto. He and his family currently live in Ajax.

For student-athletes today, or anyone with a goal, Purdy has this advice to give:

“You’ve got to be passionate and enjoy what you do. If you enjoy something, you’ll put a lot of time into doing it properly. You also have to have a single-minded focus on what you want to do.” 

Rosalyn Solomon is a recent graduate of the journalism program offered jointly by the University of Toronto Scarborough and Centennial College.

© University of Toronto Scarborough