If you took the time to gauge the number of hours Winston Ivey sleeps in a day, it would be easy to assume the 57-year-old suffers from a severe case of insomnia.
But those that know him best know that his lack of sleep has nothing to do with a sleep disorder and everything to do with the time he spends giving back to the community and the sport he loves.
The veteran basketball coach, affectionately known as 'Coach Win’ by his players, is at it once again this season as he recently finished coaching the Korah Colts senior girls basketball team and is now in the midst of preparing the junior boys at Korah for the city playoffs.
And if that isn’t enough, Ivey is also co-coach of the girls team at St. Mary’s French Immersion Elementary School and drives school bus whenever he’s not coaching or logging full time hours at Algoma Steel Inc.
“I’ve lived on about four or five hours of sleep for the longest time,” said Ivey, who moved to the Sault 13 years ago with his wife Lori (Schaefer) and their five kids and has basically coached basketball from Day 1. “I don’t need much sleep. Even when I’m working nights I might go lay down before my shift and if I get four hours, that’s plenty and I’m good to go. There’s hardly a time when I spend eight hours in bed.”
How could he?
For Ivey, it really is a matter of not being able to say ‘No.’ He says the sports he played as a kid growing up in the Toronto area left an indelible impression on him and helped mold him into the man he is today.
Now, he wants to make sure other kids get that same opportunity and if he can play a small role in their development, then it’s mission accomplished.
“Why do I do it?” he says. “Because I know it helps you in life. I did sports and I want to make sure kids get as much out of it as I did. I love the camaraderie you get from it and the fact that if you stick with something long enough and work hard it, well, that will help you the rest of your life.
“It’s still fun and as long as the kids want to do it and they’re making memories, I’m there.”
He grew up playing high school basketball at George Harvey Secondary in Toronto and then played post-secondary basketball at Ottawa University. All of his kids – Adri, Rachel, Anthony, Sam and Tori – starred locally and have since graduated from high school. Sam is in his fourth year of university and starts on the Laurentian University men’s team.
For Ivey, coaching basketball is never done in silence. He’s known around town for his boisterous demeanor as he’s loud and intense, but the end game is always the same. He wants his players to not only be the most prepared team on the court, but the most intense.
“It’s fun, it really is,” he said. “The big thing is when the lights go on and they figure something out. That’s when it’s most rewarding, when you see a kid go down the court and make a left-handed layup or jump into the lane to make a steal.
“You like to win, but you really want to see them improve and get it. I love my own kids and they still want to see me and I still want to be around them and I’m going to treat any kid I coach like my own kid.”
It is amazing that for as busy as Ivey is, for as limited as his time is, he still finds it hard to say no when the phone rings on those cold winter mornings and it’s the traffic department asking him if he can drive bus.
“I still love doing it,” he says. “I do it because it’s fun. It’s not for the money. They’re mostly all retired which means they’re still older than I am so I get a kick out of that.
“But honestly, they always need drivers which means they’re short so as long as I’m free and it doesn’t interference with my shift at work, I’ll drive.”
There have been interruptions along the way, the biggest one coming in 2012 when Ivey’s mortality was put to the test when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was quite the scare for a man who has been a portrait of good health his entire life.
And this time, instead of him giving to others, the community rallied to support him. Words of well wishes were in abundance and there was a benefit put on for he and his family, something Ivey will never forget.
“As soon as we heard cancer, everybody in the room started balling,” said Ivey, who still goes for regular checkups and is deemed cancer free. “Again, there was a good reason I moved to the Sault. I got a job at Essar Steel, I had a good benefits plan and when the cancer hit, I had all kinds of support from the community. They even did a benefit for me and I’ll never forget that.”