Pat Nearing, veteran Dalhousie University Tigers assistant athletic director and former men’s soccer coach, will retire in May 2021 following the current winter semester.
Nearing, after nearly 30 years working in university athletics, is fully retiring after stepping down from coaching the soccer team in 2019. Throughout his time working in university sport, he’s also coached minor soccer teams around Halifax and provincial soccer programs.
“I was circumstantially lucky that opportunities [to coach and work in athletics] presented themselves,” Nearing said, who started at Dal after his former school, the Technical University of Nova Scotia (TUNS), amalgamated with Dal in 1997. “I never expected I’d spend 21 years as the coach at Dal, but it was an opportunity I embraced. Coaching university men was always in my DNA.”
Driving force behind soccer and athletic programs
Nearing began as TUNS’s athletic director in 1993 while coaching its men’s soccer team. After the amalgamation, he oversaw athletics at Dal’s Sexton Campus (former TUNS location) and became Dal’s men’s soccer coach in 1999. The Tigers named him assistant athletic director in 2012.
Nearing’s coaching record of 131 wins for men’s soccer speaks for itself. He led the team to two Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championships, including one in his first season. He won national honours from U Sports as coach of the year in 2008 and the Austin-Matthews Award for outstanding contributions to U Sports this past summer.
“When you reflect back on your career, you think of the people who supported you along the way. I’ve had some great mentors,” Nearing said, naming people like Rod Shoveller, a Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame inductee, who helped him early in his career. Shoveller served as TUNS’s athletic director before Nearing took over, shortly after the former passed away in 1991.
Smarts combined with laughs
Nearing and Tim Maloney, Dalhousie’s executive director of athletics and recreation, knew each other long before working together at Dal. Nearing first met Maloney while coaching him in summer soccer in the 1990s.
“Pat brings a jovial and comedic element to the workplace. He’s also someone who grew up in and around athletics, and he has a great passion and affection for our student-athletes,” Maloney said, whose father taught Nearing when he attended Dal in the 1970s. “He’s been the glue in our department for many years.”
Maloney said Nearing’s textbook-like knowledge of U Sports regulations and standards is valuable to the Tigers, an asset few other schools in Canada have. But Nearing’s personality and drive are his most valuable traits.
“Great teams are made up of great people,” he said. “He’s someone who cares deeply about what we’re trying to do and the environment we’re trying to create. He always went above and beyond for our coaches and student-athletes. That’s what we’ll miss most about him.”
Dal men’s soccer veteran Ben Grondin met Nearing on his first campus visit. The goalkeeper, who played under Nearing for three seasons, said he was a big reason he chose Dal.
“He was a great coach in his ability to manage different personalities, his experience really shone through there. Also, he understood the student-athlete situation, how we have to manage school along with the expectations on the team,” Grondin said. He still meets Nearing around campus often. “My first reaction [to his decision] was ‘What a career,’ because he truly did have a great impact on the program.”
Nearing said until he and his wife can travel after COVID-19, he’ll ease into retirement. He said his focus will be on health and possibly volunteer work. He’ll also reflect not only on his career but who he met along the way.
“I can go back over my pictures of my teams over the years and know the name of almost everyone and many I’ve stayed in touch with. I’m a person that likes to stay in touch,” he said. “You could pick out a bunch of other highlights like games or championships won. For me, the highlights are the personal relationships.”