It’s a big deal when a jersey number is retired. What it means is that no other player, now or ever, can have that retired number on their uniform. The honour of retiring a jersey number can be bestowed on a player with a highly memorable career.
We have one of those in our midst.
EMCS physical education teacher Ian McKenzie sent the Sooke News Mirror a notice that the school had retired Trevor Bligh’s basketball jersey and presented him with his old jersey from his playing days in a frame at the June 11 EMCS Awards Evening.
“The retirement of his jersey is not only the culmination of years of volunteering,” writes Ebony Logins, who has known Bligh for over 15 years now, “but it also symbolizes the effect that his contributions have on youth in sport.” His legacy, Logins articulated, is his “passion for supporting youth through sport is driven by the sense of community that sport so modestly creates in a small town”
Currently, many may know Bligh as the coach for the EMCS boys basketball team, the team that recently rose to heights greater than any ever achieved at EMCS. They were brought to those heights in part by Bligh, whose great passion for the game kept him involved as a coach over the years.
His passion came from his own years at EMCS. In 1992 when he was in Grade 10, Bligh forfeited his final year of junior ball so that he could be a part of the senior boys’ basketball team in the AA Boy’s League.
In the winter of 1995 — that would be almost 19-and-a-half years ago — Bligh was approached to coach senior boys’ basketball team at EMCS. He was 18 years old.
Over the years, Bligh has clearly developed as a coach, learning by trial and error. For instance, he said he had a “very talented team” in 1997-1998. “We went to the Island’s AAs, but if I had them now they would have gone to the provincials.”
“Looking back, I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he comments.
That has clearly changed. In February this year, Bligh and his senior boys’ basketball players reached new heights for EMCS, winning the City AAA Regular Season title for the first time ever.
His parents, who both coached Sooke fast pitch for 20 years, had a big influence on him. “I was the dirty-faced kid running around the park,” he laughed, “chasing foul balls for freezies awarded on the return of the ball to the concession.”
Growing up on the ball field offered two great life’s lessons.
First, it gave him exposure to the relationship between coaches and players. “I saw how the older kids looked up to their coach,” Bligh recalled, “the fun, friendship and respect that the players and coaches had.”
Second, it influenced his own coaching style. “How I deal with my players came from my parents’ style. Firm, strict, but human and approachable.”
Bligh is also a big advocate of the life lessons that can be acquired by his players.
“My coaching philosophy is ‘team’,” he said. “I believe that this program can teach you discipline, leadership, and how to get along with others.”
His contributions have not gone unnoticed by the parents of the basketball players either. “He is not a paid teacher, [he’s] just a working stiff, a volunteer, inspiring a generation of new community coaches,” noted Glenn Dickie, father to Scott Dickie, a recent player with the Wolverines. “And on top of all the influence he makes to peers and players, he also wins.” Bligh’s almost-20-years of experience coaching has been invaluable to the students he has impacted.
“Trevor is an amazing man who is so much more than a coach,” writes Gloria Yates, mother of three whose lives Bligh has impacted. “He is a mentor who is dedicated to helping these young men and women be the best they can be (not just on the court). He gives of himself everyday to be available to them and to help them succeed in whatever they take on.”
Logins concurs. “His pride, ambition, and excitement for the success of young people in sport has been passed on to many, including myself. I was incredibly fortunate to have four assistant coaches for my junior girls basketball team this year, three of whom played for Trevor. They are the next generation, and for me, working in youth and inter-generational engagement, this is so important to see.”
Coaching basketball has been a two-decade long constant in his life. Besides this, he also has a family and full-time work. This makes for an incredibly busy life.
“I choose occupations that allowed me to be free to coach,” he noted, commenting that his day job experience ranged from cooking and building kayaks to construction work and painting, which he currently does.
And his family is his anchor. “I love my son more than anything,” he says about his almost-five-year old son. “My wife Shannon is … the real reason I am still able to coach these past 4 to 5 years.”
The big question
Saving the best for last, there has been some speculation mulling about town that Bligh will be retiring alongside his jersey.
Not so, he assures the Sooke News Mirror. “I am not calling it quits,” he said. “I have the best team I’ve ever had about to take the floor next November. I’d be crazy to (retire now).”
Ultimately, coaching has been extremely rewarding to both Bligh and the boys. His greatest source of pride is that he has “produced at least eight players who are better than I was,” he says, noting the additional rewards come from the relationships he build with colleagues and “even the refs.”
“I think I’ll be here till I’m 70,” he speculates. “I’m sure there will be seasons where capable parents and/or assistants coaches will take a leading role if (they) wanted, but I’ll always be around.”