By Kieran Heffernan
Abe Osman is finally getting to fulfil a dream he’s had to put on hold for almost two decades.
The former Ottawa Wizards captain has, as a coach, brought the Ottawa South United unprecedented success that has included multiple OPDL championships.
But before beginning his professional soccer career, he studied police foundations at Algonquin College.
Nearly two decades after he graduated in 2001, Osman had his first day of training with the Ottawa police on Nov. 26. It was a day he’d been waiting a long time for.
“Long dream, kind of in the background, and as it got later in life, I thought you know what, another way to contribute and help the community was by doing it on a bigger scale with the Ottawa police,” he said.
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He applied for the job last December, a couple months after Peter Sloly had been sworn in as Ottawa’s new police chief.
“I liked his message about trying to bring the service more in line with working with the community to accomplish things, and make things better for both the community and the service,” he explained.
Osman said it feels “amazing” to have the chance to impact his community in ways other than through coaching, especially as a Black man.
“It’s a chance to work with different kids from different backgrounds and show them that you’re able to do not just coaching, but you’re able to join a prestigious organization and show them they’re capable as a minority,” he said. “You can be a Black police officer and have success as well.”
Diversity in sports leadership and coaching as well has been a much-discussed topic recently, and Osman said he thinks one of the ways to make sure more minorities are in these positions is to improve outreach into their communities.
“They can do a better job of going into the different neighborhoods and talking to the coaches that are doing coaching on a smaller scale, for opportunities to work with more vast opportunities, vast clubs,” he said.
In his pro days, he said he occasionally faced discrimination while playing overseas, often from fans of opposing teams. As a player and coach in Canada people have been respectful and welcoming, Osman said.
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In his new role as a police officer though, he knows he may have a bigger challenge ahead of him.
“I want to show that police is teamwork,” he said. “Police is about community engagement, police is about working with each other, not through enforcement, but through communication and trying to bridge gaps that exist.”
“In the times we live in right now where police are not seen in a bright light, I would like to show that this is what the police service is; this is what it offers; this is what kind of impact it can have on the community.”
Osman said he believes his coaching experience has given him skills that will carry over into his new position.
“I think that was one of the reasons I got hired on. Been so long working with young minds, shaping young minds, teaching them about not just the sport, but teaching them about life, about working hard, about working as a team, dealing with challenges. Not just in sport but in everyday life, dealing with juggling schedules or competition at a high level, the stresses of that.”
Being a police officer also doesn’t mean he’ll be giving up coaching anytime soon.
“The police have encouraged it. They said don’t stop what you’re doing. It’s a big reason why you got in, and there’s always room for it,” he said.