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Matthew Ferreira: Renewing athletics at Mohawk College

As the director of athletics and recreation at Mohawk College, Matthew Ferreira is a well-known face around the David Braley Athletics and Recreation Centre (DBARC). He has been involved in sports his whole life, so having a career centred around athletics is a bit of a no-brainer. His goal from the start has been to enhance varsity sports at Mohawk College.

“That’s really where my background lies, is in the high performance side as a former athlete, coach, administrator, so it’s really my forte,” Ferreira said. “Then it just became about (the college) giving me the ability and the space to make changes happen where they had to happen and build a model that we felt could work here.”

His philosophy of sports, built up from his life-long experience, is a source of encouragement for those on the sporting staff. Cross-country coach David Hopton received such encouragement after several of his athletes suffered injuries at the beginning of last season.

“To me, it always comes back to, Matt Ferreira, the athletic director always says, ‘You keep knocking on the door enough times, eventually you’ll break it down’,” Hopton said. “And so this idea that as long as you’re in contention for medals and in contention for the win, some years it’s going to go your way and you might get it and other years it’s not. Controlling what you can control and knowing that (injuries) can happen to anybody.”

A major change implemented since Ferreira took the job involves the number of sports Mohawk College offers at the varsity level.

“Early on, the college was supportive when I brought up the concept of a sport review,” Ferreira said. “I felt we had too many teams and without a focus, so we did a sport review that condensed the number of teams that we offered, and we put some metrics forward to baseline and benchmark our success. Although difficult at the time, it really set the bar to have some tangible things that we were striving for.”

Though some varsity teams were cut, many intramural and extramural teams are still playing. Extramural teams play other colleges for bragging rights, but not at the varsity level, while intramural teams play other teams within Mohawk College.

Ferreira coached for Humber College from 2010-2019 when he left for Mohawk College. His work at Humber foreshadowed what he would work to accomplish at Mohawk College. In 2016, he played a pivotal role in building Humber College’s fitness centre and expanding the athletics department.

In 2023 he led the rebranding of the Mohawk Mountaineers and continues to revamp the athletics department and fitness centre. The DBARC gymnasium flooring was replaced and emblazoned with the new logo, photos of student athletes wrap around support posts in the lobby and much of Ferreira’s office window is covered with another wrap displaying the new motto, “Grow through GRIT.”

While there is a renewed focus on varsity athletics, other students using the fitness centre have not been forgotten. This coming year Ferreira plans to replace the bikes and ellipticals in the fitness centre with better models, while repairing broken machines and getting new parts for the treadmills that have been sidelined.

Ferreira got his associate of arts degree in kinesiology from Western Texas College, a bachelor of science in exercise science from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, a graduate certificate in sports business management from Durham College and finally a masters in physical education from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Sports and athletics run in the family, with Ferreira having met his wife through baseball and the couple now have two children beginning their own forays into sports.

“Our house is a pretty interesting one. It’s pretty competitive,” Ferreira said. “My wife, she pitched at a U.S. college. Not the same college I was at, we were completely different parts of the U.S., but she pitched at the Division I level, and then also pitched for Team Canada.”

“My oldest has been involved in sport probably since he was, like, three. But in a way that’s comfortable to him,” Ferreira continued. “I’ve coached other people’s kids for long enough and have seen the detriment that forcing a kid into sport, or placing expectations that maybe aren’t realistic on a child, what it can do to a child.”

“I kind of left the coaching world when I came here, and slowly have started to dabble back into it with my now almost-five-year-old as he plays U4 soccer, and then this year, my return to the diamond will be with T-ball,” Ferreira said.

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