Discover more from The Physical Movement: Play. Lead. Be Strong.
Edition #222: Remembering John Corbett
Epitome of all that is good with a coach, leader, family man, volunteer, innovator and mentor who's impact will endure for generations.
In was a warm summer evening in July of 2015 in Cambridge, Ontario.
Jamie wanted to get to the park a little earlier than normal to get some extra batting practice in.
The lone figure standing past 3rd base towards the outfield looked familiar. It was the Cambridge Cubs then 78 -year-old 15 & under coach making sure the lines were being done just right. When I say making sure, I mean he was pushing the white chalk cart down the line.
For many coaches at the youth level, this is not unusual. They are tasked with multiple responsibilities beyond the actual coaching of the game.
It was even less unusual for Coach John Corbett, at that time in his 37th year of coaching in his home community of Cambridge, Ontario. This was how he did things. Lining the field at 78 years old. 2.5 hours before game time.
· Humble and tireless in his effort to support local youth.
· Attention to detail.
· Making sure things were just right.
· Teaching life lessons through sport.
This is just a small example of what made Coach John Corbett so remarkable.
Jamie only played for Coach Corbett Sr (and his son, John Jr.) for 1 year. That year was very influential in both our lives. For Jamie, it reinforced his love for baseball, learning more about the skills of pitching, fielding, and hitting than he had up to that point. I was asked 1/3 of the way through the summer to help coach, when 2 of his former player coaches found it difficult to get to most games and practices. For me, it was like Christmas. To get to work with a coach who was inducted into the local sports Hall of Fame 8 years earlier, a local leader and icon. Wow!
I learned a lot with him at the helm of the group over that few months. I am better for the experience.
This was just a snapshot of our story and experience with Coach. We are only one family of hundreds if not thousands he impacted in over 53 years of involvement in community youth sport.
As a schoolteacher and principal, father and devoted husband.
As a volunteer and executive in Cambridge youth sport.
As a coach across multiple sports in multiple settings.
Coach C started his teaching career in 1965, was actively coaching through this past summer (and scheduled to coach next summer in his 86th year.)
He was co-founder of Cambridge Minor Football in 1974.
He was a co-founder of Cambridge Minor Baseball.
In the 1970’s he helped organize the annual Can-Amera Games between Cambridge and Michigan’s Saginaw Township.
He was a co-founder of the Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, and for 10 years (1994-2004) served as chairman of the Cambridge Sports Awards Banquet.
He was inducted into Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
John Corbett Field was named after him in 2012.
These are just a few of the contributions and achievements, but his impact ran so much deeper.
• Humble and tireless in his effort to support local youth.
• Attention to detail.
• Making sure things were just right.
• Teaching life lessons through sport.
The lineup was out the door at the visitation a few days ago. Folks of all ages, including young ones in their game jersey.
From first becoming involved in community sports in Cambridge in 1970 through coaching in 2023, Coach Corbett was the epitome of all that is good in a coach, volunteer and leader.
The commitment, the focus, the effort.
Here are some of the most memorable lessons from my experience with Coach Corbett:
Planning and preparation
In talking recently with his beautiful wife of 58 years, Muriel, she mentioned it would not be uncommon for Coach to spend 2 hours practice planning. Making sure all aspects were well planned out. Skills were taught right, progressions in place, stations coordinated, enough coaches to provide appropriate attention.
The amount of planning and preparation and care was incredible. The understanding of the game, the skills required to progress and the ability to teach these skills were next level.
Code of conduct
There were expectations and standards for anyone involved with his teams. Language guidelines, controlling emotions (including Coaches), communication to officials, supporting teammates and the expectations were clear to parents and families as well. He sat down with parents at the beginning of the year and mapped out goals and standards. What was acceptable and not, what communication channels were open, and which were not.
At 75 years old, Coach had his house in order. He was organized and communicated clearly in a firm but friendly manner. We were here for the kids, and everyone knew where the priorities were.
Value your support network
Coach Corbett made a point of recognizing all Mothers involved in supporting the team and players. Understanding that playing on a youth sports team is a family commitment, Coach went out of his way to recognize the Mom’s. In so doing, the message to the young 14 year old boys was clear: this is a special day to recognize and honor a very special person. Take the time to make the effort to recognize your support network, and never take it for granted.
The ripple effect
Coach C only had Jamie’s group for one summer.
The impact of the connection made with our family and others that summer reinforced the impact we can all have. A small contribution can make a big difference.
It can be easy to feel like our actions won't create enough change to matter, but as Mother Teresa said, "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples." Every act of leadership, no matter how small, can create positive change in our personal lives and business.
John Corbett acts of leadership were the pillar in the foundation for this community youth sport community. His 50+ years of service ensures that his lessons will last a lifetime.
We will miss is love for teaching young people, his love for baseball and youth sport and his presence in our lives.
Deepest sympathies to the Corbett family.
Love is the most important thing – Yogi Berra
Additional & Supporting Information on Coach John Corbett (RIP):
Cambridge Sports Hall of Fame: http://cambridgeshf.com/inductee/john-corbett/