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Alex Paris: A coach who brought people together

From being a rugby athlete breaking stereotypes, to becoming a husband and father, and coaching the men’s rugby team at Mohawk College for over a decade, Alex Paris has shown true dedication and resilience.

Paris’s passion for rugby started when he played for Mohawk’s rugby team until he graduated in 1989. Years later, he decided to use his skills to coach the team. He was inspired to start coaching because he wanted to become the type of coach that he always wanted when he played.

“I coached [the Mountaineers] for 16 years. I’ve coached at the provincial level, like coaching the Ontario U-16 and U-17 men’s teams, and I’ve coached at my local rugby club, Hamilton Hornets,” Paris said.

Being a coach has many challenges, but Paris persevered and continued to show up for his team.

 “The first thing I had to do was to learn how to manage personalities more than skill sets,” Paris explained. “Anybody who wants to learn a sport and be successful at this sport has to manage personalities and ensure people get along. We live in the real world. Not everybody gets along, so being able to manage some of that conflict between athletes is the biggest challenge for me because I never had to do that before.”

Rugby requires teamwork. Unlike other sports, rugby is a tackling sport that requires everyone to work as one for a common goal instead of independently.

Alex Paris taught his son rugby starting at the age of 5.

 “I’m not a big fan of captains,” Paris explained. “So one of the things that I would do is I would let the team create their own goals and objectives, and then make them accountable.”

Coaching required a lot of sacrifices. He worked full-time and took care of his family and credits his wife for her support and patience while he coached the men’s rugby team to a championship in 2000-2001.

“I’m very competitive. No one hates losing more than I do, but I also realize that these athletes are students first, they’re coming here to get an education,” Paris said.

This way of thinking allowed Paris to develop a good relationship with his players, seeing them as students first, and he continues to maintain good relationships with many players after graduation.

Mike Caruso, Peter Sturgess and Mike Bradford all played on the 2001 championship team.

“When I first met Alex, he asked me to drive the team to their game,” Caruso said. “Fast forward a year, I’m on the sidelines learning about the game and seeing how physical it is. Alex is nationally known in the rugby circle. He has been an outstanding rugby player turned coach, and he is an outstanding coach. The rugby team has reflected its coach’s experience, and he is also an outstanding guy.”

The team played and had fun together off the field on their nights out because of the dynamic that Paris had with his team.

“We wanted to play. He inspired us to play. Alex whipped me into the best shape of my life,” Sturgess said. “I played rugby about six years prior, but I wasn’t in that shape until I met [him]. He didn’t force it upon you, you wanted to do it for him, and it was fun. He motivated us.”

“[Alex] was an amazing coach. He was not only firm but fair. He was a main factor in my growth and taught us how to be a leader,” Bradford said. “[We] built a relationship outside of rugby that spanned beyond just being a coach, and he had the ability to bring people together and build a family culture.”

Paris continues to work for Mohawk College as a facility coordinator. Now that he is retired from coaching, he has more time for other activities such as golfing, fishing and spending time with his family. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be back on the sidelines some day.

 “I don’t know, I wouldn’t say no to coaching, but that’s not in my [current] plans at this point,” Paris said.

Though he may not be coaching right now, Alex Paris is still using all the skills he’s learned throughout his life as a coach to continue growing his career.

 “I definitely think all skills are applicable and they’re all transferable,” Paris said.

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