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11 June 2019 | in Summer FISU World University Games, Football

Universiade 'brings the best out of you at all times' says Canadian coach

A Keith Mason coached Canadian team in action on the football pitch during the Gwangju 2015 Summer Universiade

Keith Mason has coached in the Summer Universiade three times and each and every experience has left its mark.


In 2003 in Daegu and 2011 in Shenzhen he was an assistant coach for the Canadian men’s soccer team before taking the reigns in 2015 in Gwangju.


“I think each one brings its own unique experience and the host city makes such a difference too,” he said. “I think overall, all of the experiences are extra special.”


The Guelph Gryphons men’s soccer coach originally hails from West Bromwich, England but has called Canada home since 1981. Mason is entering his 20th season as Guelph’s head coach. He’s seen firsthand the value for players to participate in the games. He knows that there will be unforgettable moments, high-level competition, and lifelong memories.


“The experience the players get are second to none,” he said.


“They will cherish these games for the rest of their lives. They will tell their grandkids of the day they walked out for the opening ceremonies in front of 60,000 people wearing the Canadian flag. They will bond with their teammates, know the level of international soccer is of the highest order, and will be proud for what they achieved by being there and representing Canada.”


All three of Mason’s FISU experiences have been in Asia. Despite the hectic schedule that comes with competing in such a prolific event, he tries to take in his surroundings whenever he’s coached at the Games.


“They were all very similar in experience,” he said.


“We practice each day and play every other day, therefore it does not leave much time for sightseeing. We would always make sure we arranged one day off where we would take the players on a day of sightseeing. Going to Hong Kong for the day while we were in China was a special trip.”


As a coach, Mason’s witnessed the broad differences in play between the Ontario University Athletics conference that the Gryphons compete in versus international play.


“The level is much higher at FISU,” he said.


“The standard of play is exceptional. Many teams bring their youth national or Olympic teams in training. It is a fantastic experience for the Canadian players to experience the next level up. If we could have our top players always attend then we could compete much better.”

 Of Keith Mason’s three Summer Universiade experiences - Daegu 2003, Shenzen 2011 and Gwangju 2015 - all have taken place so far in Asia

For Mason, one day stands out in particular over his three Summer Universiades.


“The most memorable moment for me will always be the first opening ceremony I attended,” he recalled fondly. “The day was long and there was a lot of waiting about, but once we walked into the stadium, wearing our Canadian flags, being cheered on by 60,000 people, that was a moment I will not forget for the rest of my life.


“It is an honour and privilege to coach for your country," Mason added. "The challenge is enormous and brings the best out of you at all times.”