The joy of coming off a successful season didn’t last long for the Varsity Blues track team, as it was devastated by the death of one of its coaches. The Canadian track and field community lost a long-time coach, official, administrator and a close friend on March 16 when Don Mills passed away peacefully in his sleep.
His involvement in track and field dated back to 1963, when he co-founded the Toronto Striders Track Club. Mills, 76, was most recently an assistant coach with the Varsity Blues track and field and cross-country teams, where he focused his efforts on men’s middle-distance training.
He joined the Blues staff in 1999 and was with the U of T squad in Windsor this past weekend for the 2003 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championships at the time of his passing.
Mills’ connections to U of T also went as far back as the early 1960s, when he spent time as a coach with the men’s boxing team.
When not at his home in Oakville, Mills would be at one of two places—a track and field training session or a meet. Athletics was, without doubt, his passion.
After his time with the Striders, Mills went on to form Track West in 1973 and was a club coach there until the end of the 2002 season. When he was not busy coaching, he volunteered with the Ontario Track and Field Association as an official and meet director, contributing his meticulous administrative and communications skills. He was the ultimate combination of coach and manager. For his work as a volunteer administrator, Mills received the Government of Ontario’s Special Achievement Award.
Never having driven a car, Mills mastered all of the bus and train routes from coast to coast and never missed a track meet or practice session, no matter the distance. His ability to get to meets without his own vehicle became legendary. In fact, in recent years he refused to fly, but that didn’t stop him from attending the national cross-country championship in Vancouver. He left a week ahead of schedule to take the train across the country to be with his team.
Don Mills worked with student athletes for over 40 years, with the sole purpose of helping them achieve their goals. He touched the lives of thousands, and will be greatly missed. The university held a memorial service for Coach Mills last Saturday at the Athletic Centre.