The 2023 Centre Circle Awards – sponsored by Nothers – The Award Store – brought together 17 sport leaders from across the province, honouring them for their accomplishments in and commitment to the Beautiful Game.
Presented annually, these awards are Ontario Soccer’s highest level of recognition, celebrating individuals and organizations that have made contributions to the development of soccer at the provincial and national level.
“We extend our warmest congratulations to the remarkable individuals and organizations, who have been honoured at the 2023 Centre Circle Awards. These awards are a testament to their passion and outstanding contributions to our soccer community,” said CEO of Ontario Soccer Johnny Misley. “As we celebrate these achievements, we also look ahead to the positive impact they will continue to have in shaping the future of our sport. Thank you for being shining examples and for enriching the Beautiful Game in Ontario
This year’s Centre Circle Awards were held at the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel & Conference Centre as part of the 2023 Ontario Soccer Annual Members Meeting.
Each year, the Centre Circle Awards celebrate the hard work of soccer coaches across the province. Two highly regarded coaches from the Greater Toronto Area were awarded this year.
Marco Reda from Woodbridge Soccer Club received the High Performance Award for his dedication to the development of his players within the Talented Pathway. Marco enjoyed a successful athletic career himself, playing professionally in Canada, Norway, Denmark and the USA. Now as the Boys Technical Director at Woodbridge SC, his expertise and leadership skills have helped propel many players to the next level in soccer.
Nadine Powell of North Toronto Soccer Club has earned the Soccer 4 Life Award, presented to a dedicated coach who has invested significant time and effort in enhancing their players' experiences. She’s played a vital role in motivating and improving players both on and off the field. Not only is Nadine a Coach herself, but helps young women pursue their own Coaching journeys through North Toronto Soccer Club’s Female Coach Development Program.
Three outstanding Match Officials were recognized this year, each receiving a distinct honour for their contributions to the game of soccer.
Patty Peebles won the Carol Anne Chénard Award for exemplifying enthusiasm and passion for the game through her work with Southwest Soccer. She’s currently the Club Head Referee for Georgetown Soccer Club and throughout her career has been incredibly influential on Ontario’s Match Official community.
Roshan Mendonca was honoured with the High Performance Award for his expert officiating with Scarborough Soccer Association. He became a Match Official at the age of 12, and is now in his fifth year as an elite referee officiating some of the top games in the province. Roshan helps lead the next generation of referees by volunteering with the Scarborough Advanced Assistant Referee Training sessions.
Peter Kalpouzos from York Region Soccer Association (YRSA) was the recipient of the Mike Bremer Award, which recognizes members of the Match Officials community that embody values such as friendship, respect and integrity in their work. Peter’s love for soccer began in 1978 when he started playing the sport, but later transitioned to a career as a Match Official. He’s worked his way up from a Regional Referee, to being a Provincial Assessor, and then became YRSA’s District Referee Coordinator in 2016.
Five young trailblazers from the Ontario Soccer community were selected as the MilkUP Future Leaders of 2023.
Nominated by Southwest Soccer, Guelph Soccer Club received the Club Recognition Award for their solid programming, inclusive initiatives, and about 60 years of service to the local soccer community.
At Saturday’s awards luncheon, Chair of Guelph Soccer Connor Brogan accepted the award on behalf of the Club.
“Over the past few years, I have seen the club make tremendous strides toward being more inclusive and accessible, and has now grown to become a leader in this realm. We pride ourselves on being a full-service club, and on our ability to deliver soccer programs based on the needs of our community,” said Brogan. “Our ‘She's Got Game- She Can Coach project,’ Neighbourhood program, and partnership with Special Olympics continue to thrive, and we continue to work towards improving the quality of life in Guelph, with community and compassion at the center of our work.”
Ontario Soccer’s Meritorious Awards represent a lifelong commitment to the Beautiful Game. Four deserving leaders were honoured this year, each with at least 20 years of service.
Ed Whitehead, President of Pickering FC, is a long-time member, Coach, and Board Member with the Club. He led the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic and kept players and families engaged. When Pickering FC’s dome was damaged by a blizzard, he guided the Club through its re-building phase. Still, Whitehead credits his team at Pickering FC for all of these accomplishments.
“It’s an award for the Club,” said Whitehead. “We have an amazing group of staff, volunteers, and Coaches, and they’ve all made me look good! The people that do all of the work generally aren’t the ones who get the awards. So, I’m accepting this on behalf of the Club.”
Fabian Best from Durham Region Soccer Association has volunteered countless hours over the last 30 years to soccer in Ontario. He is involved at all levels of the game, from Club to District to Provincial roles. He has held several leadership roles including Head Coach, Assistant Coach, and team Manager with Pickering FC and has been on the Durham Region Soccer Association Board for about two decades.
“An award recognizing your service to this soccer community is an honour. That matters a lot to me,” said Best. “To receive this award from an organization I admire so much makes me happy and grateful; more than you can ever imagine! It doesn't matter how many times you win an award, it is always very special.”
Leslee Bax has been involved with East Central Ontario Soccer Association since 1996. She became the District President in 2013 and served in the role for the last decade. She’s also served on the Ontario Soccer Board of Directors and Central Region League Management Committee.
“I am absolutely honoured to receive this award,” Bax said. “I’m thankful for my family’s support throughout the 40 years that I have volunteered and I’m truly grateful to my colleagues. I’ve worked with some incredible people from all walks of life over the past years.”
John Labine from Greater North Soccer Association has served two separate presidential terms with Soccer North from 2010-2019 and again from 2021 to present. He was also on Ontario Soccer’s Board of Directors for eight year. John played a key role in the amalgamation of the northern region districts in 2022, thus creating the Greater North Soccer Association.
“Receiving the Meritorious Award stands as a significant personal achievement, one that would have remained out of reach without the support and invaluable guidance from my family,” said Labine. “Moreover, the world of soccer is an entity that thrives on the commitment of volunteers, and I had the privilege of collaborating with a myriad of exceptional individuals at various tiers—provincial, district, and club. These collaborations, though occasionally trying, ultimately rendered my tenure in soccer profoundly rewarding.”
In honour of Ontario Soccer’s first Executive Director Brian Avey, this award recognizes a full-time staff member that shows pride in their work, embodies the organization’s values, and stands strong through the difficult times. They are nominated and elected by other Ontario Soccer staff members, and the award is presented by Ontario Soccer CEO Johnny Misley.
Robyn Gmeindl, Ontario Soccer’s Manager of Marketing, Partnerships, and Events was the recipient this year. She has been with the organization since 2007 and has made countless contributions that have helped shape the Ontario Soccer brand.
"I was overwhelmed and honoured to be selected for the Brian Avey Award this year. Having been with Ontario Soccer for 16 years, this is one of my most memorable moments, and by far my highest achievement," said Gmeindl. "Being recognized by my peers in this award ceremony environment was very special. And the fact that it was at the Centre Circle Awards, an event that I have been supporting since I started with Ontario Soccer, is truly the cherry on top."
Respect Group Inc. was presented with the President’s Award in recognition of their consistent and generous contributions to Ontario Soccer, which have been instrumental in helping Ontario Soccer grow the game.
Co-founded by Sheldon Kennedy and Wayne McNeil in 2004, Respect Group Inc. was established to prevent bullying, abuse, harassment, and discrimination – particularly in sports. Over one million Canadians have now been Respect trained and certified using the organization’s best-in-class curriculum and e-learning platform.
Respect Group Inc. has partnered with Ontario Soccer on many initiatives over the years, most notably sponsoring the last five Ontario Soccer Summits. McNeil believes their mission to protect children in sport aligns with Ontario Soccer’s values, and describes their relationship with the organization as more of a “friendship” than a “partnership.”
Kennedy emphasized the importance of the issues Respect Group Inc. focuses on, and expressed an optimistic attitude about young people like our MilkUP Future Leaders staying involved in the sport.