David Wighton, founder of the West Shore Warriors basketball club, can trace his 55-year coaching career back to a single moment when his life was changed by a stranger at 14.
After winning a track meet in his hometown of Montreal, he went back to join his parents in the stands. He found them seated with a man who ran a track club, who told him he was quite a good runner and invited him to join.
“That decision, that inquiry by him – changed my life,” Wighton said.
That encounter set in motion a series of events. Wighton would go on to win provincial and national championships in cross country, represent Canada at a world cross country championship, and land an athletic scholarship at the University of Colorado. When he returned to Vancouver after university he began teaching, eventually earning a PhD in education.
His extensive experience working as a teacher and school administrator gave him a solid foundation to develop the Warriors’ training program. He founded the basketball club in 2009 after noticing a lack of support for basketball players on the West Shore.
Though Wighton is now retired, the program runs to this day, training young women to play in their local school teams. They also compete in the Victoria Night League against other teams in the region.
One of his proudest moments was having all four Warriors teams make the A division in the Victoria Night League championships, a division which only has eight spots. He said it’s the only time a club has achieved that distinction in the league’s history.
“That’s really revealing in terms of what’s happening in the program. It sort of reflects a lot of the things that we do as a program that nobody else does,” Wighton said.
He also believes in the power of sport to teach life-changing lessons and change lives off the court.
“You learn work habits, you learn to be focused, you learn to be sharing, you learn to play as a team. This is all positive, positive stuff for young people,” Wighton said. “We’ve had a lot of success at night league… This is a really good thing for people’s self-image, their confidence. It runs all the way through to all the other things in their life.”
Wighton has poured thousands of hours into coaching and worked to keep the program low-cost and accessible to as many people as possible. In the process, he’s coached hundreds of young women, some of whom have gone on to pursue sports at the post-secondary level.
In recalling his coaching career, he takes care to mention the support he and the Warriors program have had from many members of the West Shore community.
“I just want to emphasize that the success the Warriors program had is because of the coaches and all the parents,” Wighton said. “I didn’t do all this on my own.”
Wighton may have stepped off the court, but he isn’t twiddling his thumbs in retirement. He’s become a writer of young adult fiction. To date, he’s published 28 e-books that are available for free on Amazon.
It seems Wighton has been good at taking the things life has given him, and running with them. When asked to share an inspiring message with youth, he spoke about a hidden success that came from having a paper route in Montreal in the 1950s.
Day after day he trudged through the snow, weighed down with newspapers and a heavy coat. Through pure coincidence, he was actually doing a form of weight training, though he didn’t realize it until much later. By the time he started running, he said, the sport came naturally. But what does that have to do with basketball and life?
“In your life, there could be a secret way that you are being assisted in being successful,” Wighton said. “There’s something in you that’s a gift, that’s different from other people. Find that gift and work on it.”
Nominations for the 2022 Local Hero Awards West Shore open on Feb. 25. To learn more, go to hero.goldstreamgazette.com.
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