It was apparent from a very young age that Newmarket resident Reg Chappell had an affinity for water. At the age of three, his interest in the beach’s quite precarious waterslide saw his parents tie him to a picnic table to stop him from running into the deep water.
Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams, Chappell’s competitive swimming idols, served only to deepen this interest. By the time he had received his first swimming lessons at age 12, a lifelong love for the sport had already been solidified.
It was in Grade 9 that Chappell got his first taste of coaching. A talented swimmer who was always the first to arrive and last to leave the pool, he was the perfect person to lead the high school dive team.
Years later, with several high school swimming championships under his belt, Chappell would head to the University of Windsor to study kinesiology. He had his sights set on becoming a professional swim coach, inspired by his own coaches, Keith Buckley and Ron Schlegal, to attain excellence both in and out of the pool.
“They made me believe that I could do it. They encouraged me, they supported me, and they stood up for me,” Chappell, now 72, said. “It was important for me to pay it forward.”
Chappell achieved significant success in his professional coaching career. From 1970 onward, he held the head coach position at the Windsor Aquatic Club, Mississauga Aquatic Club, Peterborough Y Swim Club, and Newmarket Stingrays.
Though he began a new career as a financial advisor in 1986, seeking a stable job to support his wife and children, Chappell’s passion for swimming never left him. In 1993, he founded Ducks Swimming, and within the decade went on to found the Master Ducks, the Stouffville Swim Club, and Stouffville Masters, as well. He was determined to introduce swimming, and the benefits of physical activity, to everyone in the community.
“My philosophy has always been to do whatever will bring you back tomorrow,” stated Chappell, who encourages people to find a workout they enjoy doing. “If you make changes now, you’ll see the benefits for the rest of your life.”
Chappell’s proudest professional moment came in 2011, when he coached longtime student Summer Mortimer to an incredible three world records and four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, and, in 2016, when he coached Nydia Langill onto the 2016 Canadian Paralympic team.
In recognition of his incredible dedication to coaching and swimming, Reg has been inducted into multiple sports halls of fame, and has received both the Ontario Coaching Association’s 2012 Ontario Coach of the Year and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Yet Chappell’s commitment to his community and the sport he has spent his life promoting didn’t end with his retirement from coaching in 2018. He remains heavily involved in Sport Aurora, a not-for-profit group committed to supporting and developing recreation and sports for all ages, genders and abilities, which he helped found in 2005.
Alongside Sport Aurora, Reg has helped raise more than $1.25 million for charitable programs, including All Kids Can Play and Activate Aurora, and is currently working with local councillors to build more fitness facilities to accommodate the region’s growing population.
Chappell himself can still be found in the gym — and the pool — three times a week.
“There are so many seniors out there who have been helped along the way and are helping others. We are important to the youth coming up. The more we can do to help each other, the better our community will be.”