Sir Charles Tupper head coach Jeff Gourley (with grandson Elliott) said a heartfelt good-bye to his players as the impact of COVID on his family business has forced a sabbatical from the coaching front. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2020. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball

Longtime Charles Tupper hoops coach Jeff Gourley takes leave of his Tigers in 2021-22: In a changing world, here’s his heartfelt good-bye!

(Jeff Gourley has given heart and soul to breathe life and community into the East Vancouver basketball world. On Thursday, he announced his reasons for stepping away this season from the boys program at Sir Charles Tupper where the Tigers have been his extended family for most the last quarter century… the team, to be coached this season alum James Lum, will play at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational at the Langley Events Centre… we’ll have a seat in the Nicholsons waiting for him!)

EAST VANCOUVER — I have officially informed the boys that I am unable to coach this year.  It will be the first time in 22 years that I will not be on the sidelines in East Van.

It broke my heart to notify the boys and it was an extremely emotional experience for both the boys and I.  The schedules were set, the plans all put in place and strategy was being drawn up to work best with the individuals which we would be seeing on the team this coming year but…

While we think of restaurants and other small business’s which have been suffering over the 19 months of this pandemic, one doesn’t often think of educational program’s which are brought into schools throughout B.C. and across Canada.

Our company, SafeTeen: Powerful Alternatives to Violence, is one of those. 

While we usually deliver between 600-800 workshops each school year for the past 44 years we dropped down to 33 workshops in the past 14 months and 30 of those were in May and June.

I am not blaming the schools as this was a necessary step to keep the students, teachers, and our staff safe.  My wife Anita Roberts, the founder of SafeTeen, and I both understand wholeheartedly and this was simply one of the facts of living in this historic time. 

No one prepared us for a worldwide pandemic and when we were born and we were not given a booklet on how to act or how to navigate through a world emergency like this.

Every day we learn and adjust and re-evaluate our next steps.  It’s somewhat like coaching and if your game plan is not working you have to make adjustments to your strategy and to your game plan.

We are back up and running at SafeTeen but just as the food service industry goes, we went from 21 staff to eight just here in B.C. which makes it difficult to fulfill contracts.

I have to say that so many schools have been so supportive and understanding of our situation because teachers and administrators have been toiling through Covid in person this entire time and our hats must come off to all teachers for what they have done to continue to educate our youth during this whole pandemic.

Over his near-two decades at the helm of Sir Charles Tupper Tigers boys basketball, senior varsity head coach Jeff Gourley has stressed family and community even more than victories. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of 2020. All Rights Reserved)

All of this said, I am having to devote endless hours scheduling, speaking to schools, interviewing new staff and organizing the training that I simply can’t devote the time to the young men who have working on the goal to play at the elite level of high school competition which we have established at Tupper over these many years.

I am pleased to say that the boys will be in good hands as one of the greatest high school basketball players not only in the school’s history, but the province has stepped up to take leadership for the Tigers.

James Lum will be taking the reins as head coach and of course his associate coach will be my pillar and steady right hand over the last seven years of Patrick Cumaual.

It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be difficult to sit in the stands at home games or as they progress through the playoffs but this is the reality of the situation.

It warms my heart to see so many former Tigers step up to lead the latest batch of Tigers with their example and their willingness to give back to the program.

It’s not just James and Patrick but Ron Ronquillo will be the head coach of the junior program and Ivan Yaco, Joven Dhillon, Toni Maric, Gaurab Acharya and Niko Mottus to name but a few will be working as assistant coaches and skill development workout leaders!

On the evening I addressed the squad and told them of the situation I received an email from one of the seniors later that night and he wrote to me: 

“Coach, you are not leaving us as you will be with us at every practice, you will be on the side line at every game because of what you have taught us already in the younger grades.  We will represent the school, our parents, ourselves and especially you as Tupper Tigers.  You have shown us the way and given us maps on how to proceed in life and what road to travel and we understand that as you always say, “It’s the journey, not the destination” but please coach understand that you will be with us on every step of our journey this year.”

Not sure if this email made me feel better or made it even harder in my decision to take a sabbatical this year from the team.

I do know that people complain about the youth of today, tied to their devices and screen time and only concerned about themselves.

I have to think that they don’t actually spend a whole lot of time around young people because what I see from year-to-year are our leaders of tomorrow, our future and I think that our future looks pretty damn good.

I will be back next year and I am planning on packing my bags early to share that journey with a new group of young men whatever the destination.

Your Coach Forever

Jeff Gourley

Sir Charles Tupper Tigers

3 thoughts on “Longtime Charles Tupper hoops coach Jeff Gourley takes leave of his Tigers in 2021-22: In a changing world, here’s his heartfelt good-bye!

  1. Great article and great letter from one of the truly good guys in high school basketball who is coaching for all the right reasons and not just to win championships. Jeff teaches kids how to compete, set goals and how to strive to reach those goals. Hurry back Jeff, we will miss you this year but know you will be back in 2022/2023 re-invigorated and ready to lead and inspire many more young men!

  2. Your writing is always interesting and accurate. One would say you would have been an excellent cook because your “recipes” are so good.
    Are you?
    Th as no’s again for all your work at UBC football.

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