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From competitor to coach at nationals, Hall of Fame welcomes Pat te Boekhorst

'I’m just absolutely thrilled that I’d even be considered,' inductee says ahead of the induction ceremony next week
Long-time figure skating coach Pat te Boekhorst is to be inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame next week as a member of the Hall’s Class of 2024. She spent more than 30 years coaching figure skating in Guelph.

Long-time figure skating coach Pat te Boekhorst knew she was on the national stage when she heard the music playing through the speakers hanging in the arena, the music that plays before the skaters enter prior to the competition.

“The first time, standing at the boards for nationals as a coach, it seemed to be at that time just a very special moment that I had finally made it,” she said. “In my mind, it was what I focused my career on doing. There’s an anthem that gets played just before the skaters come on. It’s kind of got music that tingles and then the big hurrah and just that feeling of accomplishment was really, really overwhelming. It brought me to tears a little bit, you know. And it happened both times at nationals for me. It was just an incredible honour.”

Te Boekhorst is a member of the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 that is to be officially welcomed to the Hall next week.

“I felt that making it to that level and just seeing, you know when you’re grinding up through the different stages and coaches being coaches and being very competitive, when you get to the elite level of the national level, the respect that you have earned amongst your peer coaches is so different than going through all the lower-end stuff,” she said. “You just don’t get that type of appreciation until you get to there. And it’s just a big pat on the back of sorts feeling that, you know, you made it."

And now there’s the feeling of her hard work at every level of coaching in the sport being recognized with being named to the local Hall.

“It’s such an honour,” she said. “I’m just absolutely thrilled that I’d even be considered. Humbled, just really humbled that I’m going to be on that wall and being celebrated for my career. It was a long, long journey and raising a family and being able to do what I did. It means a lot.”

Born in Ottawa 68 years ago, te Boekhorst also lived in Windsor and Mississauga before landing in Guelph.

After competing as a youth and teen back when skating figures was still a big part of the sport, te Boekhorst switched to coaching, starting at the Acton Figure Skating Club.

“I figure skated till I was about 17, 18,” she said. “My parents really wanted me to pursue like a teaching career, go to university, which I started to do. (In figure skating at the time) it was either going into what they called the Ice Capades or turning pro and coaching. So I did go to the University of Guelph for a year and had an opportunity to teach.”

But she wasn’t sure that was what she wanted to do with her life.

“Well, it was teacher, nurse, those were kind of the options that you go to school for,” te Boekhorst said. “I really was not certain being a teacher was what I wanted to do, having skated my whole life and wanting to do that.”

The draw of the sport she loved proved to be too much to ignore although, in a way, she ended up being a teacher anyway – a teacher of figure skating.

“Exactly. Right. That’s right,” she said. “I think it’s not that I had unfinished business as an athlete. The opportunities now for skaters are much greater. The sport of figure skating has opened up where you can skate for life and, seriously, you can. When I skated, there was a certain timeframe that defined how long you could skate for. I had reached that, but I had always thought that if the finances for my family or the opportunities would have presented themselves to me, maybe things would be a little more grand. But my desire to get to a national level as a coach was so great that I poured everything into doing that and getting all the education I needed to be able to do that.”

That meant a lot of work and sacrifices to attain that goal. It also meant forming close bonds with her skaters.

“It’s a long, long road,” te Boekhorst said. “I managed to have two athletes that I took from a Canskate, which is like a learn-to-skate program, right through to a national level. And provincial levels and all of those levels just gave me such great joy. But beyond that, attending those many athletes’ weddings, birth of their babies, loss of their families, being part of their life beyond skating served a huge purpose to me, too. I’m very much a family person. Family has always been so important to me, but creating good people in my own family and good people within my students, as well, teaching them life lessons beyond skating, as well. And you know, some of them that have come and visited me in the last two months just from way back, way, way back, their comments to me about how my influence on them helped them become who they are today means a lot.”

Her career in the figure skating world led to a stay of more than 30 years with the Guelph Figure Skating Club, known now as simply the Guelph Skating Club. She retired from the local club in 2013, but didn’t walk away from the sport.

“I just took a little bit of time off,” she said. “The replacements that I had hired with the club, they needed some tending to for a couple of years so I was in and out, just kind of advising them. I’m an honourary member of the club now so anytime they need anybody to come in and just give them advice, which is probably what I’ll do next year.”

She also got involved with Skate Ontario as a team leader until what she describes as a ‘dream job’ came her way.

“A huge job opened up in Kitchener as technical director so I applied for that and they did choose me to do that so I took on that huge job,” she said. “They’re the largest club in Canada. We’re first and second with Oakville now, but I did that for five years and that was a massive job. I was in charge of all programming and we had 55 coaches. We had Twin City hockey.”

And then COVID hit.

“I had the job, the honour of being able to fill the ice from 6 a.m. till 11 at night with (sessions of) one coach, five skaters, one coach, five skaters, every hour to keep my coaches working because they’re all self employed,” te Boekhorst said. “It was a two-year contract that turned into five years because I just couldn’t leave them. It was a great, great experience. Actually Mrs. Fedy, she was over the moon that I took on that job. She tried to recruit me from Guelph when she was a tech director there years ago.”

Carolyn Fedy is known as the mother of the Canskate program, something she developed and it transformed the sport for Canadian children. The board-less, skating- only facility at RIM Park in Waterloo is named the Carolyn Fedy Skating Centre, a name transferred to that facility after the K-W Figure Skating Club moved there.

“It was like walking into a dream job at the end of my career, seriously,” te Boekhorst said. “You know, we worked the magic. I got every big star in for seminars because they had the funds. Their budgets were wonderful. We had a trust that they used. Mrs. Fedy kind of organized making sure I had enough money to run everything I needed to run. So from the start of my career to the very end of my career, it was bittersweet really.

“It came at the right time. I wouldn’t probably have gotten that job if I hadn’t created what I had created in my own career so it all worked out.”

Her career evolved just as the sport had evolved. She went from being a self-employed coach putting in long hours every day while raising a family to having almost everything she needed available to her. And now she’s a member of the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame.

“I never felt like it was a job,” she said. “When you enjoy something as much as I enjoyed skating and teaching, I say to my kids, you have to find something that you wake up and you think, ‘How could I be so lucky to have this job?’“

She also knows that it wasn’t a journey she took all on her own. There are plenty of people along the way that helped make it a career worthy of being recognized.

“I couldn’t have made it, No. 1, without my husband, my mother, all of the presidents of the clubs and boards of directors, all of the team that I put in place with me, the trust of the parents,” she said. “There are so many pieces that have to work together to get to that point, and that’s for any coach moving up through. It’s not something you do alone. You stand alone at the end, but it takes a village, as they say.”

Te Boekhorst is to be officially inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame along with baseball’s Paul Ante, swimming’s Dave Clutchey and basketball/fastball’s Danielle Everitt Sinclair at the annual Kiwanis Sports Celebrity Dinner May 15 at the Italian- Canadian Club. Head table guests include veteran sports journalist Steve Milton, Pan- Am Games gold medalist Kiara Lylyk and Paralympic triathlon guide and Triathlon Canada board member Sasha Beck.