It is hard to believe that it has been nearly five years, since Bob Piché retired from Cambrian College. Piché’s name, after all, had become synonymous with “all things sports” at the local post-secondary institution for the better part of four decades.
A Sudbury native, Piche first attended Cambrian for one semester when the campus was still located on Notre Dame Avenue, but would eventually make his way to Canadore College in North Bay and their well-known Recreation program.
The pursuit of what was clearly a passion would serve him well. “When I was a student at Cambrian, I ran the intramural program as a student technician, and was looking after the gym on a part-time basis,” he recalled.
By the time his graduating year rolled around, Cambrian was on the lookout for some additional help in the athletics department. Piché was a fairly natural fit, even if his initial vision for the job needed to be altered slightly.
“When I got to Cambrian College, I thought the big focus should be on varsity athletes,” he stated. “Over a very short period of time, I came to realize that this represents a very selective group of our whole population.”
Some could easily become captivated by the lure of varsity athletics, but Piché found that he had a more broad-based mindset when it came to athletics. “My whole forte, and even what I went to school for, was really more about recreation,” he said. “So I was basically hired to run campus recreation out of the Notre Dame campus.
“It was a very tight knit community, maybe 200 to 300 students. You knew everybody on campus,” continued Piche. Over time, things changed. Programs were structured under different departments, priorities were revised, and revised again, and a sprawling new campus, across town in New Sudbury, would take root.
The job description for Piché would change as well, eventually tackling the role as Athletics Director at a school that he had always called home. “When I got into the varsity side of things, my eyes were really opened,” he laughed.
“It got to be about “building” a program, rather than just “having” a program,” Piché continued. And like so many who have been involved in some way or another with Golden Shield athletics, the likeable administrator would struggle with finding a proper balance between his competitive nature, and dealing with the stark realities of a small, northern Ontario college.
“Obviously, we’re in it to win, but we’re also in it to provide opportunities for our student athletes to compete,” he said. “You don’t have to win all of the time, but you have to win some of the time, to keep it interesting for our players and coaches.”
“Our” players. Some habits die hard. And while Piché enjoys many facets of his retirement lifestyle, there is a longing that will likely never recede.
“I do miss it,” he said. “I just miss being involved. I really do miss it.”