Burleigh, Coyle join Sports Hall of Fame

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Two coaches, Bob Burleigh and Wayne Coyle, were inducted into Tillsonburg's Sports Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon.

Two dedicated men who coached several decades at the high school level in Tillsonburg.

“All coaches coach to win,” said Brian O'Rourke, Master of Ceremonies for the 2013 Tillsonburg Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Tillsonburg Community Centre.

“To win a game, there's a certain feeling of well-being.”

But winning is not everything, and O'Rourke noted good coaches must prepare young athletes to accept the scoreboard at the end of the game – win or lose.

“Losing isn't that bad if you've given it your all. The most difficult aspect of coaching is that they must prepare their athletes to deal with adversity in highly competitive games.”

Both coaches inducted Sunday were skilled in that area, said O'Rourke.

“Bob and Wayne were heads of Phys Ed at Annandale and Glendale High Schools. They were not only responsible for physical education curriculum, but also had the unwritten duty of seeking out fellow staff members to coach a large number of fall, winter and spring sports. This also meant mentoring a number of staff.”


“Coach Burleigh was once described by a fellow colleague at Annandale, Jim Donaldson, as the 'heart and soul of the Marauder athletic program', and he was instrumental in the development of the Gemini athletic program,” said O'Rourke.

Burleigh coached all three athletic seasons a year for almost three decades for a total of 89 seasons.

“He coached track and field, 31 years. His high school athletes won OFSAA medals, and many were champions at the Oxford-Elgin, WOSSA and Regional levels.

“He coaches basketball for 30 years. His teams won a total of eight Oxford-Elgin championships, a WOSSA championship, and participated in two OFSAA tournaments.

“He coached football for 28 seasons, seven Oxford-Elgin titles. Twenty-one of his players played at the inter-collegiate level, and one played at the CFL.

“Needless to say, Coach Burleigh was an icon. Welcome back to Tillsonburg, Coach, and congratulations on your induction into Tillsonburg's Sports Hall of Fame.”

Speaking to the assembly of people in the Lion's Auditorium, Burleigh shared some his sports philosophies, and stories, from his years of coaching.

During pre-season team meetings, he would set out priorities for the athletes.

“Your family must come first,” said Burleigh. “School comes second. Athletics comes third.

“And then girlfriend or pet, this was a final priority that was heavily debated,” he smiled.

Burleigh made it a priority to 'give back to the kids' what he had learned during his own school days from “caring, knowledgeable coaches and teachers, who gave me a strong sense of self and a direction in life. I learned that to give is to live.

“I think the most important 'Wall of Fame' for a coach is in the heart of the athletes. The most important Wall of Fame for an athlete is in his own heart. My wish is to be in the walls of the hearts of my grandchildren, and family.

“If the committee would accept it, I would be very proudly give my spot on the Wall to the people of the Town of Tillsonburg. I may have left Tillsonburg, but the people of Tillsonburg will always be in my heart.”


“Like Coach Burleigh, Coach Coyle represents quality,” said O'Rourke, noting Coyle's first love in sports was football, a sport he coached for 40 years, first at Glendale, where he started as the Junior and Senior coach in 1960-61, then Annandale from 1984-93 – continuing to coach eight years after he had retired as a teacher.

Coyle also coached junior basketball from 1971-83, co-coached the 1970 senior boys Glendale OFSAA silver-medal winning team.

He also coached track and field.

“They don't make coaches like Burleigh and Coyle any more in high school,” said O'Rourke. “Welcome Coach Coyle to the Tillsonburg Sports Hall of Fame.”

“In my lifetime as a coach and a teacher,” said Coyle, “I didn't see much difference between the two. I thought coaching and teaching were much the same thing. The idea seemed the same and that's the way I always looked at it.”

Like Burleigh, who credited Tillsonburg's athletic facilities, Coyle was quick to praise the Town of Tillsonburg.

“What a town this is, this place called Tillsonburg. It's an amazing town. Most of you know that. I was born in this town, raised on a farm just a few miles out of town, and participated here in sports as a kid. It was amazing then, and look at the facilities now.

“Tillsonburg has always been an aggressive town because the people here strive to make the town better. It seems to be innate. I'm sure there are other places that do the same, but Tillsonburg seems to have a way of doing it successfully.”

Coyle agreed with many of the philosophies Burleigh had mentioned, noting his family was very important.

“Very few suppers at the Coyle place were at the same time. Usually there were several suppers made, because of different age groups and responsibilities going on at school. Without that, I couldn't have coached. It's a small thing, but it's an important thing.”

Having his family with him, while coaching, also made a difference, he said, when he was miles and miles away from home.

“Our success in basketball in Tillsonburg meant putting up teams that were competitive, and you had to travel. My family supported me, my wife particularly. I think she had a difficult time with that, but she never complained to me. So I want to take this opportunity to thank my family, I appreciate what they did.”

The students he coached, said Coyle, also deserve credit.

“The students were incredible. We had students playing that worked on farms, that had work to do at home, and they would sacrifice a (farming) season, or in some case two seasons, and somebody picked up the slack. Being from a farm, I know there's an awful lot of work to be done there, especially at practice time from 4-6. Or 7:30, sometimes,” he added with a laugh.

“Everybody has to sacrifice to have success. It doesn't just happen. You have to work at it.”

Coyle remembers fondly the school rivalries, trying to advance beyond their own area.

“I've been retired now 20 years and I think a lot about the years I was teaching and coaching, and it was a lot of fun. I hope that your jobs provide you with as much entertainment and fun as mine did.”



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