79-year-old coach starts track and field club


79-year-old coach starts track and field club
  1. 79-year-old coach starts track and field club
    nsnews.com
    What’s a good hobby for a 79-year-old fellow, just a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday? Golf? TV maybe? Not North Vancouver’s Blair Wilson. “I would find that boring,” he says with a laugh. Wilson is instead set to celebrate his 80th next month as the founder, president and head coach of a brand new track and field club. The Seymour Pumas gained official club status from B…
    All Sports

What’s a good hobby for a 79-year-old fellow, just a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday? Golf? TV maybe?

Not North Vancouver’s Blair Wilson.

“I would find that boring,” he says with a laugh. Wilson is instead set to celebrate his 80th next month as the founder, president and head coach of a brand new track and field club. The Seymour Pumas gained official club status from B.C. Athletics in late June and the club – which already boasts approximately 15 youth members – is gearing up for a new season to start in August with registration numbers possibly doubling by then.

In many ways Wilson is a throwback. He sends out detailed, hand-written letters in support of his plans and does not have an email address (“I’ve got enough other things to do,” he says with a laugh when asked about why he doesn’t have his own online handle). He doesn’t just know of Harry Jerome – the North Vancouver sprinting legend who died in 1982 – he actually literally knew him, watched him compete in person. “He was world class,” Wilson says.

But in other ways Wilson is a thoroughly modern man, razor sharp, knowledgeable and more than capable of starting an athletic club from scratch, which is what he did in response to a need he saw in the Seymour area.

Wilson has been coaching on and off for more than 30 years, including stints at Windsor Secondary, and recently became aware of a gap in athletic opportunity in the Seymour area. He was also concerned by reports he read about the fitness levels of Canadian children.

“Participaction produces this report every year which gives young people a D- in terms of physical fitness,” he says. “My question to the government has been, ‘who teaches them?’ And the answer to that quite often is silence. So I think that there is a real need.”

That’s where Wilson stepped in, recruiting a couple of coaches and organizing a board – all volunteers – to help him get a track club up and running. He picked the name Pumas (the club has no affiliation with the shoe brand) because of the characteristics of the animal.

“They’re an interesting creature with a lot of athleticism,” he says. “They’re fast and they jump – I felt it tied in with a track and field club.”

Shauna Torres, who has already signed up her two track-crazy sons for the club, is thrilled to have an option in the Seymour area so that she doesn’t have to battle bridge traffic to get to practices.

“Joining other track clubs can be next to impossible for people sometimes with the bridge traffic and getting back and forth with their kids,” she says. “We really appreciate getting the opportunity to have something close to us.”

And it’s not just convenience that has them at the club. It’s also the energetic head coach, says Torres.

Blair WilsonSeymour Pumas Track and Field Club head coach and president Blair Wilson works with 11-year-old Lucas Torres. The 79-year-old coach created the club to fill a need for sporting opportunities in North Vancouver’s Seymour area. photo Cindy Goodman, North Shore News

“He’s fantastic,” she says of Wilson. “He has an amazing rapport with the kids. The kids respect him and they feel he’s approachable. The way he speaks to them and what he asks of them, they’re very willing to accommodate.”

Ralph Stringer is one of the club’s three coaches and also has a daughter on the squad. He’s had a front-row seat watching Wilson get the team organized.

“I’d say he’s 100 per cent driven on track and field – that is his passion,” he says, adding that the athletes focus on the coach’s passion, not his age. “He relates well to the kids. I don’t even think they notice (his age). They look at us and they think all these people are ancient. I don’t think they really put an age number to it. He’s just coach Blair.”

Wilson, meanwhile, says the kids help keep him young. He relates the story of one of the youngest athletes, a boy just finished Grade 4, who Wilson says is bursting with fast-twitch muscle fibres.

“He’s advanced for his age, and he’s …

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