Bye Bye, Clive

Looking Back at Clive Gibson’s Championship Pedigree as a Stinger Coach

  • Clive Gibson (centre, holding banner) moments after winning the 2014-2015 RSEQ men’s rugby championship. Photo courtesy of Brianna Thicke

On May 27, Gibson bought a house in Nova Scotia, which he describes as “magnificent.” Working on the house and dealing with renovations, Gibson realized he could not make a full time commitment to the team, retiring only a few days after.

“Why this year? Because I moved to Nova Scotia,” said Clive Gibson, the now retired head coach of the Concordia Stingers men’s rugby program, laughing.

On May 27, Gibson bought a house in Nova Scotia, which he describes as “magnificent.” Working on the house and dealing with renovations, Gibson realized he could not make a full time commitment to the team, retiring only a few days after.

“I would have been a part time coach. I would have been away [from the team] as much as I was there,” he said.

Before Gibson solidified his legacy as one of the most successful Concordia coaches, he started his 21-year coaching career as the assistant coach with the Stingers men’s rugby team in 1995. He then took over as head coach in 1996 with a bang. That year, the men’s rugby squad went undefeated in seven games, and even shut out the McGill Redmen 25-0 to win the championship and began to build a culture of winning within the program.

As head coach, Gibson would go on to win six championships with his squad, including his victory in 1996. However around the turn of the millennium, the men’s rugby team experienced their greatest winning streak. For three years in a row, from 1999 to 2001, the team dominated, winning the championship each and every year.

“It was just an extraordinary bunch of players that all came together at the same time,” Gibson said. “Much as we were graduating people year after year, the people coming in behind were just as equally as good.”

The team would get their next championship in 2005, but experienced a nine-year championship drought, mostly due to the strength of the McGill men’s rugby program. The Concordia Stingers came close to winning for four years in a row, from 2010 until 2013, only to be stopped by the Redmen every single time.

In 2014, this all changed.

Getting to finals for the fifth year in a row, again versus McGill, Concordia’s players were still looking to get that victory that eluded them for the previous four years, and almost eluded them again. What made this year even more trying for the team was that Gibson was in the hospital for a month, and close to death with a bacterial blood infection. It kept him in the press box during the game to avoid another infection.

With less than three minutes to go, the Stingers still managed to tie the game and send it to overtime.

“I had actually come down out of the press box. I was halfway from the end zone—ready to shake McGill’s hands for yet another loss when suddenly my boys turned it on,” remembered the retired coach. “[The Stingers] were standing 15 yards from me, at our end of the field, and I watched in amazement as they marched up that field and never lost the ball.”

The Stingers eventually won the game in overtime, for Gibson’s sixth championship for the team.

“Seeing [Gibson’s] face [after winning], he’s a coach you want to win for,” said current Stingers men’s rugby captain Andreas Krawczyk.

Current Stingers men’s rugby coach, Craig Beemer, had been an assistant coach with Gibson and was a part of the 2014 championship team.

The championships are great, and nice to reminisce on, but Gibson believes that winning is not everything in sports. Instead he believes it is also about the student athletes, the young men he has helped throughout his 21-year run as head coach.

Gibson said one of the high points throughout his career as a coach was having one his former players, Caleb Jordan, being named to the Canada sevens team in March of 2016. This was due in part to the rugby sevens program the Stingers instituted throughout the winter, with a specialized sevens coach.

Krawczyk said Gibson was great at building character and made sure to be a role model in academics.

“Clive [Gibson] definitely built me up from an average player to more of a stand out on the field and off the field,” said Krawczyk. “He definitely pushed you and made you the best you can be, and he saw the potential.”

“He’s going to be missed for sure,” he added.

Beemer mentioned how Gibson also did a lot for his players, aside from coaching.

“I couldn’t do everything he did for his players,” he said. “From prepping food, making sure all the guys were taken care of academically, medically. He was on top of things.”

When Gibson suddenly retired, he was asked if he hired Beemer as an assistant knowing he would eventually succeed him, to which he said “I didn’t even know I was leaving.”

“It was a five year plan and I put my house [in Montreal] on the market early last summer to test the waters,” he said. “Next thing I knew I had a bidding war going on and I was offered well over asking price, so I grabbed it.”

After reminiscing on his past coaching career during a 14-hour trip back to Quebec from Nova Scotia, Gibson said that moving to Nova Scotia was a part of his retirement plan. Suffering from the bacterial blood infection in the fall of 2014 made him realize that he wanted to be closer to his family.

“I needed to be closer to family in order to provide myself with support systems,” he said. “Honestly, it all happened faster than it was supposed to.”

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