Passings: Masaaki Naosaki

A field of flowers at sunset

A 2010 York University Sport Hall of Fame inductee, Masaaki Naosaki was a longtime gymnastics coach who led the York men’s team to unprecedented success. He passed away on March 8.

Naosaki only ever intended to stay at York for two years.

When head gymnastics coach Tom Zivic, a fellow York Hall of Famer, offered him a position as an assistant coach with the Yeomen gymnastics team in the early 1970s, he accepted, but planned on leaving Canada after his tenure.

Masaaki Naosaki
Masaaki Naosaki

Instead, two years became two decades.  
From 1972 to 1993, Naosaki – along with Zivic – guided the University’s men’s gymnastics program to 21 Ontario Universities Athletic Association (now Ontario University Athletics) gold medals and 18 Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (now U SPORTS) gold medals. His accomplishments earned him three U Sports coach of the year awards (1981,1982, 1986), as well as an induction in 2010 into the York University Sport Hall of Fame.

It wasn’t just York that benefited from his expertise and technical knowledge. He was called to represent Canada as the head coach of the men’s gymnastics team at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, as well the Commonwealth Games in 1981, the World University Games in 1985 and 1987, and the Pan American Games in 1979 and 1999.

These collective efforts led him to become the first gymnastics coach to receive the Coaching Association of Canada Excellence Award in 1988.

Throughout Naosaki’s coaching career, it wasn’t just athletic success that mattered to him. “Coaches are not just teaching sport skills, they are also teaching life skills. I like to see people succeed in any area, not just sport, and I continued [for all these years] because of the ability to influence people for a better life,” he once told York University Athletics.
As for his own life, he looked back with gratitude at the decision to stay in Canada

“It was a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I realized this was my place to enhance what I wanted to do and I stayed because I enjoyed it so much.”

Those who wish to leave a message for the family may do so on his memorial web page.