It’s back to school for E.Y.C.I. coaches

Video: The Toronto Observer’s Cliff Besharat interviews EYCI cross-country coach Dimitra Tsanos

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High school is all about the future. What will you do next? Where do you go?

For some, though, the future is more about making it back to where you started.

Such is the case at East York Collegiate Institute (EYCI), where some of its students have come back to live their adult lives at the school, taking part and giving back.

Indeed, five of the members of East York’s athletic department were once students in the athletic program. It was the teachers and the programs that brought them back to try to continue the tradition they had come to know and love.

Rob Greco, now a hockey, baseball and cross country coach at EYCI, knew in high school that he wanted to some day come back and make a difference in the lives of others, just as his life was changed.

“I had amazing phys-ed teachers and coaches and I wanted to do what they did,” Greco said, while at a meet with his cross-country team. “I thought about it back then.”

Greco felt that the doors were opened to him by the faculty at the school.

“They gave me a lot of memories,” he said. “They gave me a lot of opportunities to do things that I probably wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t for them, in terms of sports.

“I just wanted to give back to other kids the way they gave to me.”

Dimitra Tsanos, a track and cross-country coach at the school, felt similar inspiration from her coaches.

“I really admired my coaches so I wanted to continue the tradition when I came back because they had retired,” Tsanos said.

She was particularly influenced by her teacher and coach, Mr. Keaveney. Tsanos even took over track and teaching geography as her mentor had once done, using his coaching methods and reinstating a meet he held at the school.

Like Greco, Tsanos had already started thinking about making her way back to her high school when her education was finished. During her first stint at EYCI, she volunteered with teachers and continued to do so in university.

Though she didn’t have the chance to come back to her school right away, when opportunity came knocking, she answered.

“I wanted to come here,” Tsanos said. “When my coach retired I thought there would be an opening but there wasn’t so it was exciting when I got the job opportunity to come back.”

When she did make her return, though, there were some mixed feelings at first.

“It was weird,” Tsanos said of her first experience back at the school not as a student. “But it was nice to come back. It’s easier when you go back to your school because you know a lot of the teachers, you know how things are run and you know where the rooms are. It’s just easier.”

Greco had a similar experience when he walked back through the EYCI doors as a teacher.

“It was a bit strange at first because a lot of the teachers I had and the coaches I had were still there,” Greco said. “It was strange at first but they made me feel comfortable and it became fun right away.”

Staying a part of the school and the community has become a vital part of Greco’s life.

“Everything I’ve done is East York,” Greco said. “I grew up in East York. I’ve done sports in East York. I’ve gone to school in East York. I work in East York. I live in East York.

“So I have a lot of pride for East York. It means a lot to me.”

Both teachers know that they found a good thing and they just want to keep it going.

“Carrying on tradition,” Tsanos said of coming back to EYCI. “Just making sure that we maintain these teams because they are a part of our identity.

“We need to have our name out there, winning and showing that we have school spirit and we have a presence in the community. We’re one of the only high schools in this area, so it’s important.

“I wouldn’t want to leave it. It’s nice when you want to put something back into something you came from.”