Dear coach: An open letter to a leader and friend

The following is a farewell letter to departing Tommies men’s rugby coach Jon Wilson written by fourth-year winger Mitchell Peardon on behalf of his teammates. Wilson recently stepped down as the Tommies’ bench boss, citing his young family, his job as a teacher and his desire to keep playing and eventually return to coaching as reasons for his resignation.

Father, teacher, coach and friend. These are some of the titles Jon Wilson has. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jon for the past four years as my rugby coach.

When I came to St. Thomas for school, I also wanted to play rugby after I experienced it a little in high school. Little did I know it was Jon’s first year as head coach. Over the years, I was able to grow as a player and see the program grow because of his coaching.

The team didn’t make a name for itself until Jon became head coach. In my first year, we won one game against Mount Allison University and lost every other game. Over the next few years, we greatly improved our standing as a team. We eventually beat the University of New Brunswick after an eight-year losing record.

Jon’s coaching soon took us to the Prince Edward Island/New Brunswick championships, where we played a well-fought
match against UNB. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the match, but we didn’t leave the field disappointed.

I had several coaches over the years for various sports, and I’ve been on the sideline to see other coaches coach. But none of them have made the same impact I’ve seen Jon make. He is calm, collected and he never yells at his players.

He takes the time to fix mistakes made at practice to ensure we are ready for the next game. He will also go out of his way to make sure we excel in school. He is proud of us as players and as student athletes.

Being a coach takes dedication. You’re the one that leads the team, and the one that drives it to success. With Jon, you can see he cares about his players and the game. He has been involved with rugby for 15 years and the St. Thomas program for 14. If that’s not dedication, I’m not sure what is.

He was a hockey player in high school, but fell in love with rugby after playing it while touring France.

Rugby itself is already a largely accepting and welcoming sport. Jon made every practice worthwhile, rain or shine. Going to practice would be the best part of your day because his presence would make everything feel so lively, and he made us feel more passionate about the game. We would play our hearts out because that’s what he taught us to do.

It’s going to be different for sure not having Jon coach us, but he’s done his part coaching us as much as he could, and that’s going to stick with us. Our new coach is going to walk onto a great team with skilled and respectable players.

I’m going to miss the annual barbecue at his house in the fall, when the team would gather to play washer toss, enjoy good burgers and razz each other. Even the speech he would give us after every Friday practice, telling us to be safe and to look out for one another on the weekend, will be something I will hold on to.

I’m glad I’ve gotten the opportunity to be coached by Jon, and I’m sad to see him leave, but the past four years spent with him aren’t going to be thrown away. Thanks for being there for us Jon, I know we’ll make you proud into the season to come. You were a great coach, but more importantly, you were a great friend as well.

Yours truly,

The St. Thomas University men’s rugby team

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