Morrow’s Coaching Career Honoured with Induction to Row Ontario Hall of Fame
Al Morrow’s lifelong contributions to the sport of rowing were honoured on Tuesday as he became the first coach to be inducted into the Row Ontario Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural induction class.
Born in Hamilton, Ont., Morrow was an elite level rower long before he became a legendary coach. He rowed at his hometown Leander Boat Club, Western University, University of British Columbia, and St. Catharines Rowing Club as he climbed his way to the national level. He was a member of Canada’s national team from 1970-76, winning a bronze medal in the men’s four at the 1975 Pan Am Games in Mexico City and ending his competitive rowing career as a member of the Olympic Team at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.
Morrow’s hall of fame coaching career began shortly after the 1976 Olympics when he was named head coach of the men’s rowing team at the University of British Columbia.
“Initially, congratulations to all other members of the inaugural class of the Row Ontario Hall of Fame,” said Morrow. “It is a great honour to be part of this exceptional group of people. I have been very fortunate to have been surrounded by supportive people, first and foremost my wife Julia and our four children. I have also been surrounded by some amazing athletes, coaches, umpires and administrators. Coming out of Leander BC in the mid-60’s I was exposed to a strong blue collar-type work ethic and this was a core value that always kept me in good stead. There were many people who were very supportive throughout my career, but three people in particular were Jim Joy, Mike Murphy and Volker Nolte.”
After two years with the University of British Columbia, Morrow moved on to become head of the University of Victoria in 1978, which quickly became a national powerhouse, with eighteen past or present UVic rowers becoming members of the 1984 Olympic team alone. He quickly made his mark at the national level as well, becoming a Rowing Canada Aviron (RCA) coach with various teams from 1977 and on. In 1986, he was hired in a full-time coaching position by RCA at the National Rowing Team Training Centre in Victoria and in 1988 he moved back to his home province to head the Ontario based National Rowing Team Training Centre in London.
Morrow became head coach of the women’s national team in 1990 and would lead the program to unprecedented success until 2004. He coached at nine Olympic Games and under his leadership, Canadian rowers won a combined 15 World Championships and eight Olympic medals (4 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze). In addition to his national team duties, Morrow was head women’s coach at Western University and also led the school to historic success from 1988-2010.
Morrow has been inducted into nine Sport Halls of Fame including the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. He was named FISA Coach of the Year and received the Geoff Gowan Award for service to Canadian sport and the Meritorious Service Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Canada.
In addition to wanting the athletes he coached to succeed, Morrow also wanted to see other coaches grow and succeed. Following great success on the international stage, he spearheaded a Coach Mentorship Program at RCA, to establish support for developing Canadian coaches with opportunities to improve their skills, knowledge and experience both on and off the water. As far back as 1990, he regularly encouraged young coaches, athletes and supporters to spend time at the training centre and learn from not only himself but also the other coaches. He also ran numerous clinics inviting athletes and coaches from all over Ontario to the centre, with no reward other than to see the athletes progress and give coaches an educational experience.
Morrow was always a tireless worker and carried a humble approach with him that inspired both athletes and coaches alike. During his time in London, he could regularly be seen cutting the grass at the training centre, putting in and pulling out the buoy lines for the race course, helping at regattas and doing boathouse maintenance. Even in retirement from full-time coaching, Morrow has kept busy by teaching coach education courses, volunteering for many rowing-related activities, working as RCA’s Technical Representative to the 2022 Canada Summer Games and in 2019 he was instrumental in helping establish the first coastal beach sprint races hosted in Canada.
Row Ontario is announcing the inductions of the inaugural Hall of Fame class this week as part of ‘Hall of Fame Week’. On Monday, Ken Campbell (Umpire) was announced as the first member of the inaugural Hall of Fame class. Stay tuned the rest of this week for more announcements on the inaugural induction class of the Row Ontario Hall of Fame.
For more information on the Hall of Fame and Row Ontario’s 50th anniversary, visit www.rowontario.ca/ro50.