The life of Bob Acton epitomizes the importance of sport and the opportunities that arise with it.
For over fifty years, Bob was involved in sport as a player, official, coach, parent, instructor, and trainer, both in Canada and abroad. During this time he coached over 100 athletes who earned athletic or academic scholarships to play a variety of sports including hockey, football, soccer, lacrosse, softball, and rugby.
Bob helped train over 10,000 local children and parents in hockey. He was known and renowned as a grass roots fundamental skating instructor. Bob’s vision was twofold: to impart to children and parents the importance of participating in any sport; and to convey the knowledge that participating in structured athletic activity provides incredible opportunities and experiences.
Bob was focused on hockey and baseball at a young age; never the most dominant player in either, but driven and dedicated to constantly getting better at both.
At the age of 8, Bob was cut from Ted Reeve house league – no one gets cut from house league. He was sent home and told to learn how to skate before he came back. For the next year all he did was practice, day and night.
The following year he went to the tryout – that season he won the house league scoring title, proving how far determination will take you.
Two years later, Bob made it to AAA and played in the largest youth hockey tournament in Canada – The Québec International Hockey Tournament.
Bob continued playing both hockey and baseball until he was eventually cut from a Jr. A hockey team when he was 18. It was this moment which encouraged Bob to explore other sports opportunities beyond playing competitive hockey.
“You cannot get through life without activity. In order to survive in life, you need to do something physical.”
– Bob Acton, Founder
After being cut from Jr. A, Bob moved to Arizona to broaden his horizons. While there he rediscovered his love for baseball and decided to join a local men’s fast pitch team. This gave him an opportunity to meet new people, network, and promote himself, which would eventually take him down an entirely new path. While in Arizona he acquired the rights to an international company, “JUGS” pitching machines. When he came back to Canada he worked for the Ministry of Culture and Recreation promoting softball and baseball across Canada.
In the early 90’s Bob volunteered as a coach for his son’s local baseball team. While coaching, he was approached by a production company which had observed him training his team one day. He was asked if he would train 3 actors who were in Toronto appearing in a baseball movie.
The production company was so impressed with his ability to transform these actors who had never played baseball into realistic looking ball players, that they hired him as a consultant on the film – Finding Buck McHenry.
Over the next four years Bob worked as a sports consultant in over 30 television shows and major motion pictures, training actors in sports such as baseball, football, soccer, and basketball.
In 2002, Bob was involved with a company which put up a steel structured fabric roof over a hockey arena in the east end of Toronto, next to Ted Reeve Arena. After leaving the company the following year, Bob started his own hockey school at Ted Reeve Arena – Bob Acton Sports Academy.
The school motivated Bob to obtain his credentials as an International Youth Conditioning Specialist, Sports Trainer, and Sports Nutritionist in 2006. His program is now simply known as “The After School Program.”
Over 10,000 children have gone through his program or attended his popular Professional Activity (‘P.A.’) Day camps as well as Christmas, March break and Summer Camps. In 2012, Bob took his skill and knowledge abroad after being invited to appear as a guest skating instructor in Germany and Austria.
This gave him the opportunity to experience a new culture while teaching sport. It was during this time that Bob began experiencing symptoms that eventually were diagnosed as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (‘ALS’) – Lou Gehrig ’s disease. Despite the massive physical challenges, Bob was still focused and dedicated to teaching the importance of sport to everyone including his students, instructors, parents, and the community.
While hockey was at the forefront for Bob, he made it very clear that it is important for every child to try or participate in a variety of sports.
Sports specialization at an early age can lead to burn out. Children currently drop out of sports such as hockey, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse around the age of 12-13.
We Play Sports for Life aims to make a huge change. If a child or teenager feels that their dream of making the pros is over, we want to encourage the understanding that sports does not have to end for them. There are incredible opportunities in sports that reach far beyond being an athlete – the possibilities are endless.
Wife Heather (middle) and children Reid and Avery stand in front of the new sign at the Bob Acton Park naming on Aug. 19, 2017.