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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

LLOYD PERCIVAL

Inducted in 1976

Member Details

Date of Birth: June 3, 1913
Place of Birth: Toronto, Ontario
Date of Passing: July 23, 1974
Sport: Multisport
Member Category: Builder

Career Highlights

1946
Established North Toronto Red Devils Track Club
1953

Coronation medal from Queen for contribution to Canadian  and sport

1963

Established the Fitness Institute

Honoured Member LLOYD PERCIVAL
Inspire

Story

In 1929, Lloyd Percival competed in the Canadian junior tennis championships but lost in the final round to an American opponent. In an effort to improve his game, the 16-year-old athlete asked the American coach what he had been doing wrong. The coach informed him that his technique was incorrect and advised him to seek the proper instruction. It was then that Percival realized that natural ability could get athletes only so far; it was the proper coaching that was required to build them into champions. According to Toronto Star writer Jim Proudfoot, Percival thereafter "waged a lifelong campaign to show Canadians how to run and jump and play properly," eventually becoming Canada's foremost authority on physical fitness. In 1941, Percival began his crusade with Sports College, a correspondence school of sport for coaches and athletes launched as an educational radio program. The show went national in 1944, ran for 21 years on CBC, and registered 800,000 students at its peak. Meanwhile, Percival was putting his own theories into practice as a coach with the North Toronto Red Devils, a track-and-field club he started in 1946 to aid young athletes who weren't receiving sufficient coaching at school. He used advanced methods such as interval training and strength development, techniques that were common in Europe at the time but had not yet been introduced in Canada. Percival's training program was met with some controversy, but the success of his athletes eventually made the Canadian sporting world take notice. Throughout the 1950s, the Devils claimed approximately 6,000 medals in nearly every track-and-field event. Percival documented his teachings in numerous books, pamphlets, and manuals that offered tips for improving playing techniques in sports such as hockey, basketball, and volleyball. Percival's hockey guide in particular had a significant impact on the European sporting community. In the Soviet Union, for example, he was considered to be the leading authority on the sport, and his writings were the principal source of Soviet hockey knowledge. Percival also published a plethora of practical fitness guides aimed at improving and maintaining the health of the average Canadian. In 1963, Percival's physical training methods, philosophies and visions came together with the creation of the Fitness Institute, a large-scale athletic complex equipped with computerized fitness equipment, indoor tennis, squash, and swimming facilities, as well as tracks and gymnasiums. He designed it in such a way that it could be used by athletes who wanted to improve performance in specific areas, as well as by the average person who simply wanted to stay fit and healthy. In accordance with Percival's scientific approach to fitness, all members would undergo a series of tests to determine their physical capacity and find out what areas needed to be improved. They would then be prescribed a unique training program aimed at enhancing their personal fitness and athletic performance. It was perhaps Percival's greatest achievements that he helped to change Canadians' attitudes towards coaches and coaching. A brief that he sent to Health Minister John Munro spurred the creation of the Coaching Association of Canada in 1970, which in turn helped elevate the status of the coach in the eyes of the public. An abrasive and controversial figure at times, Percival did not gain recognition for his groundbreaking work until very late in life. In the early 1970s, he was asked to be consultant to the Canadian Olympic Association as well as the Coaching Association, while his advice was sought at seminars, symposiums, and clinics across the country. His methods, teachings, and philosophies continue to influence sporting and fitness programs worldwide, while the words he used at the close of each Sports College program are mainstays in the lives of athletes and coaches alike: "Keep fit, work hard, play fair, and live clean."


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