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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Four Ottawa coaches earn Ontario Coaching Excellence Awards

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Welcome to National Coaches Week. Have you given your coach a tip of the hat and a thank you today?

It’s the halfway point of this nine-day coach appreciation period and there are many ways to participate in the celebration, including enrolling for free or discounted National Coaching Certification Program education sessions, saying #ThanksCoach on a social media platform or joining a community event.

The provincial coaches group paid tribute to 10 of its exemplary coaches recently through its Ontario Coaching Excellence Awards program. And Ottawa coaches were recognized as four of the award winners. All winning coaches will receive a $500 prize reimbursement to be used for their team, club or organization.

Darlene Joseph. File photo

Darlene Joseph, the Gloucester Skating Club director of skating, was the recipient of the Andy Higgins Lifetime Achievement Award for being an outstanding coach and making significant contributions to coaching in Ontario for more than 20 years. Joseph has spent her entire 33-year coaching career with Gloucester.

“I was shocked,” Joseph said, when she learned about the award. “I’m very humbled and honoured. My nomination was put forward by my colleagues and they did a great job of keeping it a secret. This is very special.”

A former Gloucester amateur skater, who achieved her goal of attaining gold-level status in free skating, figures, ice dance and senior, and a four-year professional athlete with Disney on Ice, Joseph was convinced her future would be in the teaching field.

“I knew I would be either a school teacher or a skating coach. But when I finished (amateur) skating, I wasn’t ready to coach. It needed some life experiences and being away from competitions was a good growing opportunity and made me a better coach,” she added.

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Joseph entered coaching as a patient and understanding person.

During her career, Joseph has had a positive impact on her students and has watched some stay in the sport and become coaches. Joseph also has contributed by serving on the Skate Canada board of directors for the past six years as the Skate Ontario representative.

In 1971, she started skating at Gloucester Skating Club, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Her competitive career at Gloucester was interrupted for several years, when her father was posted to work in Europe. But when she returned, Joseph represented Gloucester in the novice, junior and senior levels over a four-year period.

“It was hard for me, but it has made me a better coach,” Joseph said. “I learned the hard way and was exposed to different teachings.”

Ottawa Rowing Club’s Zak Lewis won the Hydro One Safe Play Award, while Ottawa River Canoe Club’s Joel Hazzan was the male recipient of the Good-to-Great Award, and Tumblers Gymnastics Centre’s Abderrahim Moussa earned the Everyone Matters Coach Award.

Lewis joined the Ottawa Rowing Club as its head coach in February, 2020. A former university rower and national team development athlete, Lewis has been a coach since 2016 in Canada and Australia.

After learning to paddle at the Rideau Canoe Club, Hazzan later became head coach of that prestigious club. During his 16-year coaching career in sprint canoe kayaking, he has been part of national and provincial team coaching staffs and is now connected with the Ottawa River Canoe Club.

Born in Morocco, Moussa has competed and worked in gymnastics for the last 17 years. He previously worked as a technical manager and elite coach in Dubai.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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