Goderich, Ontario is a town of 7,500 people that rests on the shores of Lake Huron. Despite being a 90-minute drive to the closest turf field, this small town has developed a vibrant and growing field hockey community largely thanks to the efforts of Ray Lewis. It’s with great excitement that Field Hockey Canada announces Lewis as this year’s recipients of the Male Grassroots Coaching Award.
Lewis, known by his friends, teammates and students as ‘Lew,’ has been involved with the field hockey community in Goderich since 2005, when he took over the field hockey coaching position at Goderich District Collegiate Institute, where he teaches social sciences and Canadian studies.
At any moment, Lewis can be found at the GDCI grass field — quite literally his back yard — with a stick in hand, teaching and instructing the sport he loves. On top of his coaching responsibilities with the school, he also leads workshops, introduction clinics and multi-age sessions as well as running club events. According to Lewis, he has found his passion and he couldn’t be more thrilled.
“Coaching is my life blood,” he said. “It’s what I love to do. It’s all about getting a stick into a kid’s hand and just letting them play…I’m probably out on that field at least three hours per day.”
Ray Lewis has three daughters (centre), all involved in the sport he loves. For him, it’s all about family and community. – Photos/Contributed
Since 1984, Lewis has been involved with coaching dating back to his soccer days down the road in Exeter, ON. He was formally introduced to field hockey through his mentor, Jim Workman. He spent the following years falling in love with the sport. In ’05 he fully immersed himself in the field hockey coaching world when he attended a ‘super camp’ at York University featuring FHC Hall of Famer, Kathy Broderick as an instructor.
“It was a five-day camp, and I got the coaching level 1-2 [certification] and some theory,” he recalled. “That experience was enough to make me want to keep coaching. Everyone in field hockey has been so giving to me. Even though I was a rookie, they were more than happy to mentor me.”
Coaching and developing a program in a small town such as Goderich can come with its fair share of challenges, including access to turf fields and locating quality competition as well as exposure to the next levels of the game. Lewis leads the charge in combating these challenges by bringing his athletes to regional tournaments as well as inviting teams and high-level players to come to Goderich.
“We call them friendship games. We have to find games wherever we can. So, we look for teams that are willing to host us and then reciprocate by coming to play in Goderich,” Lewis said. “Really, I try to expose the kids to as much as possible. I took them to the Pan Ams [in 2015].”
Lewis’ story shows that despite living in a town with limited field hockey history, that community coaches and champions can help build that legacy for future generations. Since he started in 2005, Lewis has now taken teams to the Cal Cup in California as well as overseas to Europe. Many of his athletes of gone on to play in the OUA and on provincial teams. Lewis is proud of what has been accomplished in Goderich and looks forward to what will come next.
“The first thing I would say to other small towns [looking to get programs started], is that it is not impossible. You are not as alone as you think you are.” He said. “People are willing to get help out and get involved. Also, there are more resources out there than there ever has been.”
Lewis is honoured to have received this award and humbly hopes it will bring more awareness to community coaches and the work that is being done in Goderich.
“I love this sport. It’s hard not to be passionate about it,” he said. “I love seeing people experience the game and enjoy themselves.
The Field Hockey Canada Coach Award program is supported by Gryphon Hockey