Olympian Bill Crothers’ Connection with Chris Chapman and Derek Virgo

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“Healthy active kids become healthy active adults.”  This quotation is from former school trustee and Olympic medalist Bill Crothers, who was instrumental in creating a public school in Markham Ontario that supports student-athletes like no other. Supporting the students includes having a full-time S&C coach as part of the faculty. I met with Mr. Crothers over hot chocolate to discuss the genesis of the high school named in his honour, Bill Crothers Secondary School (BCSS). I also met with the school’s first S&C coach Chris Chapman, and the current S&C coach Derek Virgo, who shared their answers to 4 questions (see below).  

This video (created by the students) gives a great overview of BCSS HERE

Bill Crothers Interview: 

 

Sheldon with Bill Crothers

Knowing that Bill Crothers was Canada’s top athlete in 1963 winning the Lou Marsh Trophy, and inducted into both the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1965, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, it was an honour to meet with him. 

While Mr. Crothers was serving in York region as a school trustee, his friend and 1964 Olympic teammate Dr. Bruce Kidd was the Dean of Physical Education at the University of Toronto. With Director of Education at the time Bill Hogarth, they worked together to create a high school that focused on scheduling, course offerings, and study periods based on the needs of student-athletes. For example, “there is a study period mid-day which allows those who have practice for their sport right after school to complete homework, or get caught up.” Additionally, “class periods are 60mins instead of the typical 70mins allowing for greater focus during class time.”

In chatting with Mr. Crothers, it is clear, because of his humility, that he is not comfortable with a school being named after him, “it should have been called Bill Hogarth Secondary School.” However, clearly, he is passionate about the purpose of the school which keeps the needs of student-athletes at the forefront. To this end, BCSS hired a full-time S&C coach as part of the faculty. The first S&C coach hired was Chris Chapman. 

I have had the privilege of knowing Chris for approximately 12 years. In that time, we have worked together in several capacities, in varied settings. He is a thoughtful, knowledgeable person, with a drive to question and push the boundaries of the status quo, all of which make him an excellent S&C coach.

Chris Chapman Interview (BCSS’s first S&C Coach):   

 

Click HERE for Chris’ bio

CSCA: Were you hired as a designated S&C Coach without additional teaching duties? 

CC: In short yes. To my knowledge it was the first role of its kind in Ontario – a full-time S&C coach position in a public high school. I was heavy into the Canadian Sport for Life / Long Term Athlete Development at the time and it was an amazing opportunity to apply the models and idea that Canada was trailblazing. I was not a certified teacher, so I was not part of the teacher’s union nor did I have a homeroom class like teachers do. 

CSCA: Was there a provincial (or city) support network for others in a similar role as you? 

CC: At the time I was unaware of any other similar roles. Private schools in Ontario didn’t start hiring full-time S&C’s until a few years later. There were always Phys. Ed. teachers who were into strength and conditioning who opened the weight room or made programs for students, but this was all on their own time out of interest. I was creating the systems, programming and content from scratch. I did have a network of local and provincial S&C coaches to lean on for advice and had my mentors to bounce ideas off when necessary. My direct supervisor at the time, Athletic Director Jason Sealy was also a great sounding board and mentor. This role was also unique to the school and the province at the time as it was also not a teaching role. 

CSCA: Did you apply for the position or create the position? 

CC: I applied to the position as it was posted for open tender. I was contracting for the Canadian Sport Institute and doing a lot of personal training at the time but was looking for something full-time to sink my teeth into and build a program. 

CSCA: Was there a difference in your typical work week between the fall/winter versus the summer? 

CC – There was for sure. During the school year I would be running open training sessions for students who were interested, before school, at lunch, and after school. During classroom hours I would either assist with delivery in Phys. Ed. class or I would be training the high-performance students who were exempt from gym due to being a member of a provincial or national team. The school supported students who had demanding schedules based on sport participation. Students were also able to attend the gym during their independent learning period (ILP) if they were all caught up on homework. During the summer there were no students at the school. However, I did run open training sessions so students could come in. Aside from the summer training, it was more prep and planning for the coming year. Since I wasn’t a teacher I didn’t get summers off. It was pretty quiet around the school to say the least! Lots of time for experimenting in the gym which was nice. 

Currently, Chris is the Director of Sport Science at PUSH.

After Chris’ tenure at BCSS, Derek Virgo was hired to fulfill the S&C duties. My connection with Derek is multi-layered, and over the past 10 years, I have known him as an elite triathlete, an S&C coach, and also as the husband of a teacher at my kids’ primary school. Derek is as kind a person as you will ever meet, with a heart of gold.  

Derek Virgo Interview (BCSS’s second and current S&C Coach): 

 

Click HERE for a tour of BCSS with Derek

CSCA: Were you hired as a designated S&C Coach without additional teaching duties? 

DV: Yes. The strength and conditioning coordinator/coach role is one of two positions that make up the athletics department, which, is unique to BCSS in the public high school system. The roles were created to meet a “larger-than-normal” demand for both extra-curricular and co-curricular training and competition. 

CSCA: Is there a provincial (or city) support network for others in a similar role as you? 

DV – No. In public high schools in Ontario, a designated strength and conditioning support role is incredibly rare. In the private sector, there are plenty of trainers that work with, and specialize in, youth athlete development, but as far as I know, no local or provincial network exists for strength and conditioning coordinators outside of high performance and/or PSO/NSO-supported programs.  

CSCA: Did you apply for the position or create the position? 

DV: Yes. I applied for the position after seeing it posted online in 2010. Although I did not create the role initially, it’s very safe to say that it is constantly being redefined to meet the changing needs of the BCSS student community.   

CSCA: Is there a difference in your typical work week between the fall/winter versus the summer?   

DV: In a co-curricular capacity, no. During the school day, my role involves support for, and enhancement of, fitness-based HPE programs by delivering both hands-on training workshops and guided sessions. In an extra-curricular capacity however, there is a considerable amount of seasonal variation.  During before-school and after-school training sessions, depending on sports that are currently in-season, athletes, teams, and clubs that I am working with will vary. Higher performing athletes who rely on yearly training programs supported by periodized strength and conditioning also contribute to a significant amount of seasonal variability on the extra-curricular side of things.  

When you have the opportunity to watch the BCSS video (see the beginning of this article for link), note that Derek is interviewed at the 4:34 mark.  

On a personal note, my daughter is graduating from BCSS this spring. I know first hand that BCSS is a wonderful school with passionate teachers, support staff and amazing coaches like Derek Virgo, and Chris Chapman before him. As mentioned at the outset of this article, the school would not have been possible if not for Bill Crothers, Dr. Bruce Kidd and Bill Hogarth.  

Furthermore, in 2017 a new high school opened in Markham in honour of BCSS co-founder and former Director of Education, Bill Hogarth. As of September 2019, my son will be starting high school at BHSS.  

Thank you to Bill Crothers, Chris Chapman, and Derek Virgo for there contributions to this article, and their support of the CSCA.  

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