As an educator, coach, mentor and family man, Cyril Sahadath touched many lives.
The Pickering High School teacher and track and field coach, who succumbed to a massive heart attack in March 2013, was celebrated recently at the eighth annual Cultural Expressions Black History Month event at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate in Ajax.
He was posthumously recognized with the Madiba Award, which the organization created last year to honour an individual for outstanding community service.
Sahadath’s widow, Dr. Kathy Cowan-Sahadath and their son Casey – an aspiring political scientist who is pursuing his PhD – accepted the prestigious honour.
The couple, who were married for 28 years, met in Grade Nine at Woburn Collegiate Institute.
“Many of us had the wonderful opportunity of being part of Cyril’s family life, his educational pursuits and his own experiences as a competitive athlete,” said Dr. Cowan-Sahadath, who is the Humber Institute of Technology & Advanced Learning human resources director. “There were decades of planning, co-ordinating, fundraising, trips, practices and competitions and all of this became very much the fabric of our lives.
“Every one of us will remember Cyril in a way that has personal meaning. From students and athletes recalling ‘how every point counts’ or the importance of ‘pulling the trail’ to students, parents, friends and family describing his work ethic and dedication to teaching students, there was consistency that told us the values that were so important to him. He was a thoughtful leader enabling others to experience new insights about themselves and their performances leading to growth and learning. We have been truly touched by the impact he had on so many.”
Event co-chair, Dane Lawrence, has fond memories of Sahadath. His daughter, Katherine Lawrence, who graduated from Kent State University last year and is pursuing a Master’s in sports administration at the University of Louisville, is one of the many Durham area athletes Sahadath recruited.
“He saw the potential in my daughter and some of her friends when they were in Grade Seven,” said Lawrence. “He knew what was possible for them and predicted they would excel in the 4×100-metre girls’ event.
At the 2009 Ontario Federation of Secondary School Athletics Association meet in Sudbury, Pickering High School – led by Lawrence, Christine Exeter, Adrianna Allen and Marissa Smith – led their team to victory in the final.
A 2013 Drake University graduate, Smith paid tribute to her former coach at the celebratory event.
“Coach pushed me to reach my full potential,” she said. “He was not someone to settle for mediocrity. He expected nothing but the best from his students and athletes.”
Migrating from Trinidad & Tobago in 1965, Sahadath joined the Pickering staff in 1989. In his first year, the school won the Lake Ontario Secondary School Athletics Association championship and, two years later, clinched its first Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) boys’ crown.
With the dedicated and driven coach at the helm, Pickering won a record 13 provincial boys’ titles and three girls’ championships (he started the girls program in 2006).
Laurie Jacklin, a member of the event’s organizing committee, conceived the idea for the Madiba Award. The inaugural recipient was York Regional Police officer Dameian Muirhead.