In 1976, Daniel Syrotuik had just started his doctorate in sports sciences when he joined the coaching ranks of the Golden Bears football team. The Ontario native had come to Alberta three years earlier as an Edmonton Eskimos draft pick, but realized that education — not professional football — was the future he wanted.
Nonetheless, Syrotuik never got too far from the field. For more than four decades, he helped shape both the game and the lives of countless student-athletes as a coach, mentor, volunteer and builder of the sport he loves.
He was a Golden Bears assistant football coach from 1976 to 1990, including four years as the defensive co-ordinator, then he continued in a guest coach capacity between 2000 and 2012. He helped lead the Bears to three conference championships and one national title during back-to-back appearances at the College Bowl, now the Vanier Cup, in 1980 and ’81.
But Golden Bear footballs weren’t the only balls he juggled so adeptly.
In 1981, he started working as a professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, teaching and researching topics such as the mental tendencies of elite athletes or the impact of sports supplements on performance. Off the field, Syrotuik helped both football players and other student-athletes alike with their off-season strength and conditioning programs.
Before his retirement in 2012, he tackled various faculty leadership roles including vice-dean, acting dean and chief operating officer of undergraduate and graduate programs.
Away from campus, Syrotuik kicked off a profound volunteer career, giving his time, energy and expertise toward developing the sport at the provincial and national levels.
One of his first volunteer roles was to chair of a Football Canada working committee tasked in the early 1980s with developing the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) — a strategy of standardized, inclusive and safe sport education for football coaches and coach developers.
He continued in a variety of volunteer roles for Football Alberta and Football Canada over the next four decades, including a stretch as the provincial president from 1998 to 2005 and his long-standing membership on the National Coaches Working Committee.
In 2015, Syrotuik was named as a Football Alberta Hall of Fame and Lifetime Member. That same year, he also received the Alberta Sport Connection Award for Volunteer Coaching.
From the field, classroom or boardroom, Syrotuik’s energy and expertise have boosted football in Alberta and across Canada.