The Turning Point of Early Success
I began my teaching/coaching career at St Mary’s Catholic Secondary School (SMCSS) in 1989. It was a small populated school of about 200 students. We were trying to establish publicly funded Catholic education. Prior to that my philosophies were forged in an environment of very competitive and successful athletic endeavors. In spite of the successes the common theme were values driven programs.
So, when I came to SMCSS that is what I attempted to offer. It was not easy in the beginning, where my philosophy was a bit in conflict with the current situation. I demanded a strong commitment to excellence through 'Education through Sport". I perpetuated a motto of, 'No School, No Sports, No Practice, No Play."
This demand was not readily accepted and only a few student/athletes could commit to the dedication that was required. The first sports that I developed using these demands were Basketball and Volleyball. Among the core student athletes that forged the legacy of "It's a Thunder Thing" for the next five years of arduous pursuits in these two core sports were Jason Craig, Eric O'Rourke, Mike Bons, Gary Collins, Bryan Brady, Andrew Ross and Michael Smith.
What became pivotal to our successes was when we were able to convert the small 60 foot by 30 foot gym (volleyball court dimensions) from a cafeteria at lunch to a practice facility. The core athletes practiced every lunch hour the various pursuits for five years. Practices were all closed because I felt that practice was not a spectator sport. Student/athletes need to be in a learning environment free to make mistakes and learn.
Of course, there was some resistance from the administration because of the optics of an elite program. However, with the incorporation of a House System for inter mural sports that was more inclusive, the administration softened and we proceeded.
I also coached a group of female/student athletes for 3 years with the same tenacity demands. They were highly committed and wanted to emulate what the boys were doing. These athletes included Cynthia Jurchison, Amy O’Rourke, Rachel King, Melissa Bonner, Jennifer Burleigh, Denise McDonald and Lola Teelucksingh. I tried to develop programs instead of just having teams.
We were fortunate at SMCSS, because we had a stable of teacher/coaches who committed themselves to kids and spent many hours away from their families to spend time with other people's families. Even during the 'Strike Year' I was able to conduct coaching courses where similar perspectives to inter school sports were formulated.
Our teachers did not want to sanction no coaching and we were prepared to start up our own "Catholic League" so we could continue to participate and compete at an inter school level. Some of the trail blazers who led many fine programs at SMCSS during the early years were, Steve Egan, Stan Muldoon, Donna Conway, Jane Anne Egan, Rick Seggie, Jim Blainey, Ray Heffernan, John McDougall, Mike Desjardins and Mike Killoran.
By Rob Majdell
Former Teacher, Coach, Athletic Director, Principal
Reviewed August 2020