Carol Coulson started playing field hockey before she was supposed to.
More than five decades later, she’s still playing.
Now Coulson’s passion for field hockey as a player, coach, referee and organizer is being recognized as she’s inducted into the builders’ category at the Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame (SHOF).
Coulson wasn’t exactly born with a field hockey stick in her hands, but her mom was an avid player and when she went to sign her eight-year-old daughter up for a team in Burnaby, she was informed she was too young — players had to be at least 10. Her mom immediately volunteered to coach, if Carol was allowed to play.
And so began Coulson’s journey into a sport that occupies many of her waking moments and has allowed her to get a degree at Simon Fraser University (SFU), travel up and down the West Coast and over to Jamaica and the Netherlands.
Coulson, who’s now 61, said when she started playing field hockey, it was one of the few sporting opportunities open to girls and young women; the gender barrier hadn’t yet been breached in minor soccer – nevermind ice hockey.
Coulson competed for her high school team at Burnaby North Secondary, played at SFU and she was a member of the first women’s team in the Tri-City Eagles program that was founded in 2000 by Brian Lewis, who was himself welcomed into the Coquitlam SHOF in 2014.
Coulson’s coached teams at four high schools in the Tri-Cities — Centennial, Riverside, Gleneagle and Dr. Charles Best. She served as School District 43’s league coordinator for 26 years and she continues to umpire games.
For the Eagles, Coulson’s been a vice-president on the board since 2003. She’s also coached, co-ordinated its spring program, prepared rosters, organized schedules, liaised with other leagues and the City of Coquitlam and helped out with the spring mini and mite programs that introduce field hockey to new generations of players.
Like Coulson’s induction biography says, “her passion and dedication to the interest of field hockey is the utmost.”
Coulson said her investment in the sport pales to what she’s gotten back from it.
“I’ve seen what the sport can do,” she said. “It gives you a sense of belonging and athleticism.”
Coulson said field hockey’s niche appeal helps cultivate a unique bond amongst those who decide to play it.
“Field hockey is a total community,” she said. “That’s why it’s so hard to step away.”
Among the highlights of Coulson’s long association with the sport is a third-place finish in the 2012 AAA high school provincial championships when she was coaching the Gleneagle Talons.
But nothing can match the feeling of being able to line up alongside her own daughter when they were both playing for the Eagles’ Div. 1 women’s team.
“What an experience to play with your own child,” she said.
Still, Coulson added, there are challenges ahead for field hockey in the Tri-Cities.
With 400 youth players and another 120 or so on women’s teams, there’s pressure to create an elite program to which they can aspire and develop further.
But that will take a commitment from the city to build a pitch that conforms to international competitive standards, with short turf and water or sand fill, an initiative that’s yet to advance past preliminary discussions.
And a program for boys continues to struggle to grow beyond a single U14 team.
Coulson said realizing those goals will take careful cultivation of the next generation of field hockey’s builders.
Her recognition by the Hall of Fame could be a springboard to creating that continuity of commitment.
“I feel like I’m representing a larger group,” Coulson said. “Hopefully they’re a group of leaders to come.”
Other members of the CSHOF Class of 2022 are:
• Curt Malawsky played for 13 years in the Western Lacrosse Association, in New Westminster, the North Shore and with the Coquitlam Adanacs, where he was part of the team’s only Mann Cup national championship in 2001. He also played 12 seasons in the National Lacrosse League and won a championship in 2009 with the Calgary Roughnecks, the team he currently coaches.
• Figure skater Kevin Reynolds achieve top results at several national and international competitions, including a silver medial with Canada’s team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He was also four-time silver medalist at the Canadian nationals and twice he won the bronze.
But Reynolds’ biggest claim to fame might be the five quadruple jumps he landed during his gold medal performance at the 2013 Four Continents meet, the first time that’s ever been done in one competition.
• Phebe Trotman has won soccer championships at every level, from youth where she helped the Burnaby Girls Blast win the U19 Coastal, provincial and national championships in 1997, to SFU’s NAIA national title in 2000 to a W-League championship with the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2004.
• Taimi McMillan is an honourary lifetime member of the Coquitlam Sharks, as well as the BC Summer Swimming Association’s Pool of Fame after a lifelong career as a competitive swimmer and coach. She won several NAIA national times in her three years with the varsity swim team at SFU and she was the Sharks’ first female head coach, a position she held for five years. She also guided the swim team at Hillcrest Middle School until 2018 and she was a driving force in the BCSSA as an athlete and volunteer, serving on its board and organizing the annual coaches’ conference.
All of the inductees will be honoured at a special ceremony Oct. 20 at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex.
For more information visit the Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame’s website.