Parking and traffic modifications for National Bank Open tennis

YFile featured image by Photo by Kelly L from Pexels shows a parking lot

The 2024 National Bank Open tennis tournament will take place at the Sobeys Stadium on York University’s Keele Campus from Sunday, Aug. 4 to Monday, Aug. 12. While every effort is made to minimize the disruption of operations on the Keele Campus, the following parking and traffic modifications will be in effect.

Reserved parking for tennis pass holders:

  • Founders Road West Lot
  • Northwest Gate Lot (north/middle)
  • Arboretum Lane Parking Garage
  • Student Services Parking Garage
  • Shoreham Drive Lot

Patrons and participants are required to have a virtual Tennis Parking Pass to access these lots/garages. All lots, with the exception of the Shoreham Drive Lot, will be occupied for this event from Sunday, Aug. 4 at 6 a.m. until Monday, Aug. 12. at 12 a.m. The Shoreham Drive Lot will be closed for this event from Friday, Aug. 2 at 6 a.m. until Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 6 a.m.

York U parking permit holders

Permit holders with the exception of Shoreham Lot permit holders, will not be displaced during this event. A predetermined quantity of parking spaces have been reserved for community members who must be on campus during this time. Shoreham Lot permit holders will be moved to Arboretum Lane Parking Garage from Friday, Aug. 2 until Tuesday, Aug. 13 inclusive.

York U visitor/short-term parking

Visitor and short-term parking will be available in the following places:

  • Vanier Lot
  • Founders Road East Visitor Lot ($10 flat rate)
  • Northwest Gate South lot ($10 flat rate)
  • Calumet Lot ($15 flat rate)
  • York Lanes Parking Garage
  • Atkinson Lot
  • Passy Crescent
  • Assiniboine Road
  • Fine Arts Road
  • Physical Resources Building Lot South
  • Thompson Road Lot West
  • Thompson Road Lot East
  • University Street
  • Lumbers Visitors Lot
  • Student Services Parking Garage

There will be no short-term parking in the following places:

  • Arboretum Lane Parking Garage
  • Northwest Gate Lot (north/middle)
  • Shoreham Lot

Traffic restrictions on campus

The following road restrictions will be in place from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. from Sunday, Aug. 4 to Monday, Aug. 11 and from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 12 inclusive:

  • Shoreham Drive will be closed for the duration of the event.

For more information or if any special parking arrangements are required, contact Parking Services at parking@yorku.ca.

Lions Cup raises record proceeds for varsity student-athletes

Members of York Athletics & Recreation pose with Lions Cup Tournament cheque
Members of York University Athletics & Recreation pose with Lions mascot, Yeo, at the annual Lions Cup golf tournament.

It was a successful day on the links on May 28, as York University Athletics & Recreation hosted the 21st annual Lions Cup Golf Tournament, presented by TD Insurance, in support of bursaries for York Lions varsity student-athletes. $160,500 was raised through pre-event registration, while another donation of $5,000 was made on the day of the event, bringing the total to $165,500 – a new Lions Cup record.

This year’s event saw 104 golfers take to the greens at King’s Riding Golf Club in King City, Ont., with the common goal to provide financial assistance to York Lions student-athletes. As has been the case in previous years, the event featured several competitions along the course, including driving, chipping and putting accuracy challenges, the longest drive competition, closest to the pin and a beat-the-pro contest.

A number of York’s student-athletes – reaping the benefits of the funds raised – were on site to actively engage with golfers, fostering valuable relationships with professionals in their fields of study as they prepare for careers of their own.

Originally dubbed the Chair’s Cup in 2001, the Lions Cup carries a rich history. Its creators – Marshall Cohen, the former Chair of the York University Board of Governors, his wife Judi and Guy Burry, current Chair of the York University Pension Fund Investment Committee and longtime men’s hockey coach – had a visionary goal: to establish an event that not only raised much-needed funds but also forged bonds among friends, alumni and community partners. In recent years, under Burry’s leadership, the event has centred on bolstering varsity student-athletes by committing all money raised to athletic bursaries.

“These bursaries are possible thanks to the generous contributions of donors and sponsors of our long-standing tournament,” said Bart Zemanek, director of development at York University Athletics & Recreation. “Their support is crucial in cultivating a culture of excellence in Athletics & Recreation, providing Lions student-athletes with the resources to achieve their goals, both in the classroom and within their given sport.”

For a complete list of this year’s tournament sponsors and donors, visit the Lions Cup Golf Tournament web page.

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.

Charging up: new Tait McKenzie exercise machines power York

Person on a bicycle charges the battery
Renewable energy, green electricity, exercise bike generates electricity, healthy lifestyle, hard work to replenish energy and build strength for the future, a person on a bicycle charges the battery.

New electricity-generating workout machines introduced last year at York University’s Tait McKenzie Centre have demonstrated the University’s commitment to affordable and clean energy, one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by reducing emissions and powering the institution’s grid.

In 2023, at the Tait McKenzie Centre’s 11,000-square-foot fitness centre, many of the exercise machines used by the York community were worn down and nearing the end of their lifespan. While considering how to replace the equipment, Athletics & Recreation (A&R) saw a unique opportunity.

They could replace the machines with new, comparable ones, or they could take an approach that would further one of the University’s most notable ongoing institutional goals – affordable and clean energy ­– with something more innovative: electricity-generating workout machines.

Steven Chuang
Steven Chuang

The decision was an easy one. While the green machines were comparable in price to traditional equipment, they offered a notable advantage: the value of using human power to reduce emissions on the Keele Campus. “This is one of the key driving forces that led us to purchase these state-of-the-art machines that can advance our mission towards sustainability, contributing back to the grid and keeping up with our fitness goals, one step at a time,” says Steven Chuang, executive director for A&R. “We wanted to ensure that we’re really striving towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and educating students about the value of sustainability.”

Since August 2023, 42 electricity-generating machines – which include treadmills and indoor bicycles from green fitness company SportsArt – have been introduced to the Tait McKenzie Centre, helping York become one of the first universities in Canada to have green workout equipment at that scale.

The treadmills and bicycles have been plugged into outlets where no energy is drawn and are leveraging the energy generated by users to give back to the University’s power grid. Over the past months, the machines have been working toward the roughly 19,264 kilowatts of energy they can produce per year, which equals roughly 7,700 kettles of water.

York community member on a green bike

They are expected to save $25,000 over the next five years, as energy produced from workouts follows the path of least resistance to where it’s needed on campus – whether it’s providing energy to power a clock or an LCD screen. Tait McKenzie, and the machines, even offer a feature where those breaking a sweat on the machines can directly see their contributions to sustainability through a leaderboard display screen that tracks which workout equipment units are producing the most power.

“Having these machines on campus is a model for what can be done for sustainability,” says Mike Layton, chief sustainability officer. “That’s what being part of a university is all about – contributing not only to making the university space better but making a better world.”

In the past few months, these machines have made an impact on several users, including staff members. “I smile when I’m on them,” says Art McDonald, acting associate director of campus recreation. “It feels good to use these machines and give back to the planet.”

For those interested in testing these machines, visit the Tait McKenzie Centre on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Keep an eye out for the green SportsArt logo.

York alumna to champion respect at Ontario Soccer Summit

soccer ball on field

York University women’s soccer coach and former Lions star player Farkhunda Muhtaj takes the stage at the 2024 edition of the Ontario Soccer Summit, where – as a celebrated advocate for social justice – she will emphasize the critical need for promoting respect in sport within Canada’s soccer community.

A two-time York graduate who holds degrees from the Faculty of Education and the University’s kinesiology program, she is one of 600 delegates expected to attend the summit, a gathering of coaches, staff, administrators and stakeholders from across Canada’s soccer community, taking place on the Keele Campus from Feb. 23 to 25.

Farkhunda Muhtaj 
(Credit: Mike Ford for York U Magazine)
Farkhunda Muhtaj
(photo credit: Mike Ford for The York University Magazine)

As a keynote speaker, Muhtaj will draw from her experiences within Ontario’s soccer system and her journey as an Afghan-Canadian professional soccer player. Muhtaj gained international recognition when, in 2021, she defied the Taliban by successfully relocating Afghanistan’s junior soccer team outside the country to safeguard its female players and their ability to play.

In her talk, the 26-year-old former midfielder will highlight the transformative influence of sports, particularly in marginalized communities. She will also present the documentary about the Afghan team’s story, We Are Ayenda, to underscore the resilience of the Afghan youth women’s national team and the power of soccer in shaping lives.

“I’ll discuss strategies for creating inclusive environments, prioritizing player safety and combatting bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination. Soccer has empowered me to give back to my communities as a global active citizen, and I believe it’s imperative to offer others similarly enriching experiences,” she says.

Named a York University Top 30 Under 30 in 2022 for her active dedication to social justice through sport, Muhtaj will also stress the urgency of rebuilding trust within the soccer community just as Canada is getting ready to host 13 of the 104 games at the 2026 FIFA World Cup, with seven in Vancouver and six in Toronto.

Her ongoing role as a mentor and role model for aspiring soccer players, particularly those from under-represented backgrounds, underscores her commitment to nurturing talent and diversity within Canadian soccer.

Through partnerships with soccer organizations, government agencies and community groups such as the Scarborough Simbas – a Toronto-based soccer program for refugees and other newcomers to Canada – Muhtaj aims to promote inclusivity and growth within the sport. She does so as well through Respect in Sport, a program within the Respect Group, which educates youth leaders, coaches, officials and others on how to approach bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.

“As an Afghan-Canadian professional soccer player, the director of culture and conscience at the Respect Group and the co-founder of Scarborough Simbas, I am uniquely positioned to contribute to the development of soccer in Canada,” she says, “ensuring it is truly inclusive and growing the game.”

Muhtaj’s ongoing advocacy for policy changes within Canadian soccer governing bodies also aims to guarantee that diversity, equity and inclusion remain top priorities at all levels of the sport. By actively participating in policy discussions and decision-making processes, Muhtaj continues to shape the future of soccer in Canada. She believes the need for comprehensive, long-term plans to foster a culture of respect and integrity within the sport is important.

“In light of significant milestones in Canadian soccer, such as the establishment of a women’s professional league and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2026, there’s an urgent need for unity within the sports community,” she says. “It’s crucial to safeguard our children, keeping them engaged in sport for a lifetime.”

Dexter Janke: the new face of York University football

York lions football 2023 team in action

York University Athletics & Recreation has secured the appointment of Dexter Janke as the 12th head coach in the history of York’s football program.

Dexter Janke
Dexter Janke

A former Canadian Football League (CFL) player and Grey Cup winner, Janke brings a wealth of experience and a champion’s mindset to the role, having served as the head coach of the Westshore Rebels – a Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) team based in Langford, B.C. – last season. Under his leadership, the Rebels achieved a remarkable 12-1 record, reaching the Canadian Bowl before narrowly losing to the Saskatoon Hilltops.

For his ability to bolster a team’s scoring ability, in 2023, Janke was named the CJFL’s coach of the year. He aims to bring that ability now to the Lions.

“This is a really exciting time,” says the 31-year-old Edmonton native. “We have a great opportunity to reset the standard, come together as a group and bring a lot of pride and excitement to this program.”

Janke’s journey to coaching success began with a notable career in the CFL where for four seasons he played as a defensive back, earning a Grey Cup ring with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2019. Prior to his professional career, Janke honed his skills at the University of Saskatchewan where, as a six-foot-tall, 220-pound running back, he was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in 2015.

Aside from his accomplishments on the football field, Janke has a diverse athletic background, having competed as a brakeman on Canada’s four-man World Cup bobsleigh team in 2018. His multifaceted experiences have shaped his coaching philosophy, which stresses teamwork, discipline and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

“My exposure to winning environments and high-level coaches prepared me well for this opportunity,” Janke says. “My time as a professional athlete and student athlete provided me with the necessary perspective to relate to our student athletes’ experience.”

York is proud to have him.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dexter Janke to our department and the University,” says Steven Chuang, York’s Athletics & Recreation executive director. “Coach Janke’s core values align with our mission of delivering a world-class student-athlete experience by transforming the lives of everyone that we touch – one Lion at a time.”

Adds athletics director Alex Dominato, “I could not be more excited to announce Dexter Janke as the next head football coach of the Lions. He is a proven winner and leader as a student athlete, professional player and head coach. His ability to bring everyone along for the journey was evident and special to all of our stakeholders.”

Having stepped into his new role as head coach on Feb. 5, Janke hopes to instill a sense of pride and excitement within the York University community. His younger brother, Jacob Janke (BCom ’20), played for the Lions as a York student from 2015 to 2019, so he already has an idea of what is needed to take the team forward. “The York football team,” Janke says, “has a passionate alumni group and strong support from the University. That, along with a young roster, makes this an exciting opportunity.”

His vision extends beyond the gridiron, emphasizing the holistic development of student athletes both on and off the field. His commitment to creating a supportive and inclusive environment aligns with York University’s values, ensuring that athletes have the resources they need to thrive academically and athletically.

“I’m working hand in hand with the coaching staff to make sure we have a solid structure and foundation to build upon,” Janke says. “We have to focus on the structure, on the culture, then the results will come.”

Learn about repetitive strain injury prevention, Feb. 29

Hands typing

Do you know what a repetitive strain injury (RSI) is, or how it can be prevented?

RSIs are disorders of the musculoskeletal system, such as tendons, muscles and nerves, that can develop gradually over weeks, months or even years. Symptoms can include tightness, discomfort, stiffness, soreness, burning, tingling or numbness within hands, wrists and arms. These conditions account for over 40 per cent of all lost-time injuries (WSPS, 2023). Increasing and varying position and movement during work hours is one way to help reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries.  

Health, Safety & Employee Well-Being is offering two sessions in support of RSI Awareness Day.

Thursday, Feb. 29 at 11:30 a.m.
A 30-minute virtual session describing the importance of posture and a proper workstation set up. Register for the virtual event.

Thursday, Feb. 29 at 12:15 p.m.
A 30-minute in-person session demonstrating how to adjust your ergonomic chair. Join us in the Physical Resources Building for this interactive demonstration (no equipment required). Register for the in-person event.

For more information regarding office ergonomics, download a copy of Ergonomic Comfort for Your Workstation.

Additional ergonomic resources can be found on York’s Health, Safety & Employee Well-Being web page.

Questions related to workstations should be directed to your manager.

Outdoor recreation program returns with winter fun

Cross-country skiing

Looking to get active this semester without committing to the gym or a sports team? Check out Athletics & Recreation’s Outdoor Experience Program, back for its second term and open to York University students and community members. Adventure seekers of all kinds are invited to immerse themselves in Canadian culture beyond York’s borders, with staff taking participants by bus to off-campus locations to participate in a variety of fun winter activities, from cross-country skiing and snow tubing to hiking and more.

The program’s second event of the term, snow tubing at Horseshoe Valley Resort, takes place on Feb. 17 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., with the activity itself lasting three hours. Travelling by bus, participants will head to the resort in Barrie, Ont., where they will receive a hill pass that grants them unlimited access during the allocated time slot. Snow tubing is a thrill-seeking activity that requires no skill or previous experience. You’ll fly down the hill in a single-person tube and be taken back to the top by the “magic carpet,” a type of conveyer belt for people. Participants will also be able to warm up in the resort’s chalet and purchase food from the various restaurants and eateries. This is a great opportunity to meet new people, try something new, and get the health and well-being benefits of being active outdoors.

The other upcoming events this term include:

  • Winter Hike at Kelso Conservation Area, March 10 (register by March 2); and
  • Farm Xperience at Riverdale Farm, April 27 (register by April 19).

For more information about the Outdoor Experience Program, including pricing, and to register, visit the program website. The prices of the events cover transportation, entry to the experience, required equipment and a snack. All York University community members are welcome to participate.

Lions hockey coach leads para athletes, advances inclusion in sport

Russ Herrington

Russ Herrington has coached and won at various levels of hockey for close to three decades, having spent the past six as head coach of the York University Lions men’s hockey team after serving as an assistant for two years.

Since joining the Lions staff, he’s taken on a new coaching challenge in the world of para hockey with the Canadian national team.

First invited to guest coach the team in 2016, Herrington continued to be called on to join the coaching staff and moved from video coach to the bench as an assistant coach in 2019, and then became head coach in September 2022.

Russ Herrington coaching the Canadian national para hockey team
Russ Herrington coaching the Canadian national para hockey team.

And, aside from a few minor differences – such as no backwards skating, bilateral skill sets (using both hands proportionately rather than one in the stand-up game) and the fact the players are on a sled – there aren’t many discrepancies from the traditional game to the para game.

“In terms of tactics and the approach, I don’t really treat these players any differently than the players at York,” said Herrington. “They’re high-performance athletes; they just sit in a sled rather than stand on their feet. So, other than a few minor tweaks in terms of defending the rush because they don’t skate backwards, it’s basically the same thing.”

The biggest difference, perhaps, lies in the path of Herrington’s para athletes as opposed to the ones he coaches with the Lions. From players with disabilities from birth to amputees to paralysis and more, the players’ journeys are inspiring and unique, with many being relatively new to the game.

“What it has taught me is the importance of simplicity, repetition and language,” Herrington said. “In hockey, quite often, you’re trying to be multifaceted, trying to be good at 10, 15, 20 different things. We had that approach, but we would become jacks of all trades and masters of none, so let’s simplify the game and streamline our focus and be pointed in our language. Let’s try and be brilliant at three things and then we can worry about trying to be brilliant at a fourth.”

While there have been great strides made in growing the game of hockey in certain areas, the para game has, in some sense, lagged behind, he said, stressing that while para athletes may do it differently, para hockey players are, indeed, hockey players.

“They’re as able as anybody else,” he said. “They’re fiercely independent, they don’t want pity, they don’t want sympathy; they want to be treated like everyone else, and that’s the way I approach it.”

Herrington also said he views the game through a much broader lens in terms of accessibility than he did before entering the para hockey world.

“I look at rinks completely differently now,” he said. “There are a lot of arenas I go in now and I’m like, ‘This is a great facility, but we couldn’t bring a para team here, and that’s a shame.’ So, it’s really opened my eyes in terms of the need to make things more accessible.”

Under Herrington’s leadership, the Lions have made it a priority to broaden their knowledge and understanding of a variety of social issues, including Black Lives Matter, Pride and Truth & Reconciliation.

They also recently held their second annual Colt’s Crusade game on Dec. 3 against the Western Mustangs, spotlighting seven-year-old para hockey player Colton Hagarty, whom Lion forward Michael Douglas met while serving the youngster and his family at a restaurant in Toronto. The Lions also co-ordinated an invitation to a national team camp in Elmira, Ont., where Hagarty was able to meet some of the athletes.

“A lot of the things we’ve done, especially coming out of the pandemic, have been collaborative ideas coming from our players,” Herrington said. “Michael came to me and said, ‘Hey, this is a kid that is trying to get into para sport; what can we do to get him involved?,’ so we were really glad to be able to celebrate Colt.”

The Lions head coach said that being leaders in social initiatives is a key component in the program’s mission of providing a transformational student-athlete experience on and off the ice.

“That’s one of the things I challenge our group to do, individually and collectively: to change the narrative around hockey,” he said. “As part of the CROSS (character, respect, optimism, sacrifice, self-care) acronym, we talk about character, and that to us is the understanding that the true essence of a person is in their actions, behaviours and choices, not what their external appearance looks like.

“We can’t change all of hockey culture; we can change our hockey culture and hope it starts to spread.… We need to be leaders in that space, and that’s a challenge I’m thankful our players are willing to take on.”

Herrington is currently with the Canadian para team coaching at the 2023 Para Hockey Cup in Quispamsis, N.B. The tournament began on Dec. 3 – International Day of Persons With Disabilities, an annual observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. The Canadians have won the first two games of the preliminary round, beating China 4-1 and Czechia 3-0.

How York Lions soccer became a powerhouse with Carmine Isacco

Carmine Isacco coaching header

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

Over the course of 17 seasons, Master Coach Carmine Isacco has guided the York University Lions men’s and women’s soccer program into becoming one of the best – not just in the province of Ontario, but in all of Canada. The secret to the Lions’ long-term success during Isaaco’s tenure hasn’t just been about talent and athleticism, but factors found off the soccer pitch, too.

When Isacco decided in 2007 to join York University to coach the Lion’s men’s soccer team, he did so for one reason more than any other: potential. He saw it in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and its leagues, the student-athletes circling York at the time, as well as the growth of the game and program at the University. “I’d like to unlock that potential,” he thought.

Carmine Isacco
Carmine Isacco

Seventeen seasons later and Isacco has succeeded, becoming a coaching star of an accomplished soccer program. Over the course of his York career, the Lions men’s team has won six OUA championships and earned four national championships out of 10 appearances. They have also won provincial medals in 12 of the 13 years Isacco has led the program and finished first in the OUA West Division in each of his 13 seasons. Most recently, the Lions earned silver in a tough OUA championship loss and were victorious in the national U Sports consolation final. Since also taking on the women’s soccer team in 2015, Isacco has guided that team to consistent high rankings and an OUA championship in 2019.

Isacco’s efforts have made him a six-time recipient of the OUA men’s coach of the year award, two-time recipient of the OUA women’s coach of the year award, a two-time U SPORTS coach of the year and a three-time York coach of the year.

When looking back at the success and growth of the program, Isacco credits several factors for its trajectory. Among them is the first squad he coached in 2008 – “Generation One,” as he calls them – whom he praises for re-establishing the men’s program at York and setting a precedent by winning a national championship. “They really set the tone for what the standards were and what the next group of student-athletes had to live up to and strive for,” says Isacco.

The precedent and spirit of that team has been carried forward, not just with a benchmark to emulate, but with Generation One players becoming part of the program over time. For example, Luca Forno, captain of the Lions from 2007 to 2009, has been an associate coach for the team since 2010 and his former teammate Jamaal Smith has also been an assistant coach in the past.

Isacco also credits the soccer program’s out-of-the-gate success and accomplishment since to York’s unwavering support. “York never swayed from its commitment to our soccer program, both men’s and women’s,” says Isacco. The University’s ongoing investment in facilities, all-year-round programming, scouting for exceptional technical ability and athleticism, the York Lions Stadium and off-season Dome, and year-round support have been critical to the teams’ success under Isacco’s leadership. “Without that belief and investment from the athletic director and the people above the staff managers, it would have been very difficult for us to grow.”

More than material investment, what has also been critical to the program’s growth is the morale investment from York. “It’s the words of encouragement; it’s the handshake. Those things are so important for the student-athletes to feel that connection to the school,” Isaaco says. Even former York Lions will reach out to current ones before big playoff games to provide words of motivation.

Members of the York Lions men's soccer squad which won back-to-back OUA Championships in 2017 and 2018
Members of the York Lions men’s soccer squad, which won back-to-back OUA championships in 2017 and 2018.

As for his own impact on the success of the York Lions throughout his time at the University, Isacco has cultivated a holistic coaching approach that has influence on and off the field.

“There’s a higher purpose to doing this for me that is important. It’s not about winning. It’s about being proud of what you’ve done and how you’ve made people around you better,” he says.

For him, that comes through adopting values and responsibilities that ensure positive outcomes – like commitment, ownership, accountability. “All those things, they lead to winning, but more importantly they lead to good people. They lead to better fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters,” Isacco says.

It’s about developing accountability, too, he adds. “It’s important that people understand what we preach within our team and within our environment. Not only mental or emotional accountability, but with tactical schemes and their technical skills,” Isacco says.

Instilling those values into his players are important to Isacco, not just to ensure his teams are always full of athletes with strong character, but to ensure wherever they go after their York Lions career, they take those values with them. “It makes you more accountable to life. The field is like a microcosm for real life in the end,” he says.

“I hold my players to high standards. It’s not only necessary in the culmination of winning divisions or OUA and national championships, but it’s in being at your best. It’s being able to look yourself in the mirror and feel that fulfillment,” Isacco says.

After 17 seasons of transformative coaching, Isacco has built a legacy of triumph and positive change both on and off the field.