Inducted in 2002
Technical Director and President, Coaching Association of Canada
Created first national coaching institute
Named to the Order of Canada
As chief architect of Canada's National Coaching Certification Program, Geoffrey Gowan changed the face of athletics in Canada. Thanks to Gowan, coaching became a career rather than a hobby, while sport became more of a craft than a pastime. According to Alex Gardiner of Athletics Canada, "his legacy is putting a professional face on coaching. There's no longer the sense of coaches as moms or dads who show up at the rink or pool after work." Gowan was an active track-and-field athlete as a young man in his native England. He competed in the long jump and triple jump at both county and university levels, while obtaining a degree in physical education from Loughborough College. He first came to Canada in 1964 as a clinician for the Royal Canadian Legion Sports Training Plan. He returned to school in 1965, gaining a Masters Degree at Purdue University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin. In 1968, he joined McMaster University in Hamilton as a professor and athletics coach. Gowan joined the Coaching Association of Canada in 1972, serving as technical director and later president. By 1974, a national coaching certification program had been created that moved sport from the kitchen tables to the arenas and playing fields of the country. Coaches had always been regarded by Gowan as the next most important element of sport behind only the athlete. The certification program gave those who wanted to coach an opportunity to learn the latest techniques and procedures as well as the most successful way to transmit the information to the athletes under a coach's care and direction. As a result of the program, coaching development thrived in Canada. "He was a leader in the development of the entire coaching education program in Canada," said National Coaching Institute director Andy Higgins. "He was not only a visionary leader but was a passionate advocate for coaches and coaching. He knows there is only one key element in amateur sport, and that is the coach. Without the coach, it's just a bunch of people having some fun playing games." During his 25 years with the Coaching Association of Canada, Gowan was instrumental in the training of more than 800,000 coaches, and in the development of the "Fair Play" codes. He organized what has become the "Sport Leadership Conference," the largest professional development seminar in Canada for coaches, officials, and administrators. Gowan created the first of seven National Coaching Institutes which offer a diploma in coaching. He also played a key role in the creation of the National Apprenticeship Program for coaches and the Coaching Scholarship Program. Despite his major contributions to sport education and development, Gowan is probably best known to the general public for his longtime CBC coverage of track and field. As an analyst, he provided incisive comments with concise perfection. He knew his subject better than anyone else and was able to present the information in a manner that was informative and entertaining to viewers regardless of their level of knowledge. "He is the most literate analyst I've every worked with," said CBC play by play commentator Don Wittman. In 1992, the government of Canada bestowed the Order of Canada on Gowan in recognition of his substantial contribution to sport. Later, he was awarded an Honourary Doctorate in Civil Law from Acadia University for his distinguished service to sport in Canada.