For over five decades, Ross Enslev has maintained an important role within the Brantford community, as a teacher, sports coach, mentor, author, and volunteer.
Enslev’s path toward a career, focused on leadership, started when he was a teenager.
“I started coaching in the spring of 1966, Peewee baseball in Holmedale, and the reason that I got started as a 15-year-old was because the adult coach at the time had become ill, and the kids weren’t going to have a team. I [decided I] would step up and [coach]. And I have been coaching up until this past year for 56 consecutive years in this community,” said Enslev.
Enslev would eventually become a high school teacher while establishing himself as a major force in developing various championship-caliber teams in the Brantford area during the next several decades.
“I had been helping with the boy’s Briers basketball program, which started in 1978. And I had also been a co-founder of the Branford Bullets, which was a men’s team of university graduates. [When] I was teaching at Brier Park Public School….the girls that were in Grade seven, that were going to be in my class next year, asked me if they could have a team and I told them I would if they [designed] a logo that would go on a sweatshirt for Brier girls’ basketball team…next day two students came to me with a logo [and] it went on the very first sweatshirt. I would [establish], at the time, what was called Branford Minor Girls Basketball. And we played under Pauline Johnson and then at the end of the season, we amalgamated with Brier’s boys’ team,” explained Enslev.
Enslev continued to refine his skills as a coach and success followed on the basketball hardwood.
“From 1985 to 1995, we were in the provincial gold medal game seven times and won three times. And that was at the highest level…Brantford [was] going against the best,” Enslev said.
The success was evident, not only with the championships but with how Enslev helped many children he coached develop into transformative leaders and professionals including Andrew Todd (a Coach at NorthPark Collegiate), Dr. Leslie Buckley (Head of Addiction Services at the University Health Network, Toronto Western Division); Angela Kelly (Women’s Soccer Coach at the University of Texas) and Lynne Andrews (Associate Director of Women’s Basketball at NCAA) among others.
As well, Enslev has also been committed to many initiatives within the community as an award-winning volunteer including being part of the induction committee for the Brantford & Area Sports Hall of Recognition for 21 years; where he was enshrined in 2001. However, he explained the next step in his journey.
“Last spring, I had made a very difficult decision to step down as a competitive community coach, but I still wanted to be still be involved…So, I decided that I wanted to give opportunity to kids to get back into their parks, for free play [and] I formed a group called ‘Free Sport for Growth.’ We don’t have any designation anywhere, that’s just our moniker. And we have been busy affiliating with other groups in the community, which some have been finalized, and some are still in transition,” said Enslev.
Enslev then went on to write a book, ‘Our Neighbourhoods and My Journey,’ collaborating with former MPP Dave Levac. The proceeds from the book sales would help in purchasing equipment for children.
“I wrote the book, the first book as a catalyst…Dave [and I] have the same beliefs that we want to get kids active…we want to get them learning commitment, teamwork, resilience, and respect…all of those things that we learned at the park, for free, which [many of the] youth today are missing out on now,” Enslev continued. “And we think doing all those things are going to contribute to having a better community. It makes it a better place for the educators, it makes it a better place for the policing system that makes it a better place for the hospital system. And hopefully, for the workforce down the road, [to] have kids that really want to contribute.”
According to Enslev, the community has been very receptive which led him to write his second book.
“It’s entitled, ‘Community of Sports Excellence.’ It’s testimonials from a number of people who started in the parks or started in the grassroots sport[-level] and became leaders either in professional sports, in the business world, or in academia and they’re attributing a lot of their successes,” Enslev said. “We’re going to put it in every school library that would like to have it. And kids can go and see some of these Brantford heroes, and maybe get a little bit of a positive push.”