Allan retires as Muskie coach

When the Muskie football team steps onto the field next season, they’ll be doing so without one of the pillars upon which the program was built.
After 20 years as a coach with the black-and-gold’s senior team, Greg Allan has officially announced his retirement.
Allan, who had informed the rest of the coaching staff prior to training camp that this season would be his last, felt the time was right for him to step aside and let someone else take over his duties as an assistant coach.
“I’m hoping this will allow coach Beckett to bring on new people,” he said.
“I’ve been doing it for 20 years and I’m going to miss it dearly, but I’d like to see new people on board. Sometimes change is good.”
The veteran coach patrolled the Muskie sidelines for the last time on Friday during the black-and-gold’s 27-13 loss to the Tec Voc Hornets in the quarter-finals of the Winnipeg High School Football League.
Following the game, as Allan prepared to address the team one last time, a familiar speech ran through his head.
For years, he’s asked the senior players to ensure every play they make is a memorable one because they could never be sure if it would be their last.
As he began to speak, that message once again was front and centre in his mind. “I was thinking ‘Gee, this is my last play,’” he recalled.
With tears in his eyes, Allan went on to thank the players for a wonderful season, and for the heart and courage they showed during their final game. He then made a point of shaking hands with each and every player—several of whom embraced their retiring coach.
While football is a passion of Allan’s, what made the decision to step away from the game so difficult was the same thing that has kept him coming back all these years—the kids.
“I love working with the kids,” he stressed. “They’re the ones that make the program. I’m just fortunate enough to work alongside of them.
“I tried this year to not get as attached to the players and keep a distance, but it doesn’t work that way,” he admitted.
“You still get attached to them. They grow on you. That’s what makes it [the decision to retire] difficult because I consider them very good friends of mine.
“I’m going to miss that part of it—the camaraderie with the kids.”
Throughout the years, Allan has formed many lasting relationships with the players coming through the Muskie football program. It’s not uncommon for graduated players—both living here or just visiting Fort Frances—to drop by the Allan household for a chat with their former coach.
“Guys still drop by and talk, and we have a beer together now that they’re old enough,” he chuckled.
Allan’s positive influence on his players is undeniable, but the best testament to the impact he had lies in the number of players he coached who went on to become coaches themselves.
No fewer than three former players—Beckett for the Muskies, Sturgeon Creek’s Brett Watt, and Dryden’s Neil McLeod—currently are coaching in the WHSFL.
“There can’t be a coach on staff in any sport who’s been with a program longer, especially as a volunteer community member,” Beckett said of Allan.
“It speaks loads for the type of guy he is.
“I’ve had him as a coach and now I’ve coached with him, and it’s been a real pleasure . . . he’ll be missed not only for his football knowledge but for his personality and his commitment to the program.”
“His commitment to the team—to all the players that have gone through there—his motivation, his excitement for the game of football not only helped me continue on, but want to give back as much as he gave to us,” said Watt.
“That was an inspiration,” he added. “You knew he was always going to be there to teach us and help us win.”
Former Muskie head coach Bob Swing, who resigned abruptly the week before the playoffs, coached his entire career at Fort Frances—almost 15 years—with Allan.
The two were extremely close both on and off the field—so much so that Swing once joked the two were married in a radio interview.
It is fitting, given the nature of their relationship, that Swing’s favourite memory of Allan is a humourous one.
“One of the things that will always stick with me was maybe about four or five years ago when we were short on players and short on attendance, and all the coaches had to actually participate in practice,” Swing recalled.
“Coach Allan was playing corner and was taunting—I’ll even say that—he was taunting the receiver across from him.
“He ended up picking off a pass, but he was just too lazy to run it back for a touchdown,” he laughed. “He probably could have but you know, that wasn’t the point.”
Despite the good-natured jab at his fellow coach, Swing was very serious when discussing Allan’s immense contribution to the Muskie football program.
“His commitment to the program is outstanding,” he said. “But personally, he’s helped me through some very tough times. He’s been the pillar of strength through it all.
“He’s there for me to bounce ideas off, he’s there for the kids—whether they’re playing football or not playing football,” Swing added. “There is no person that has put more into the program than him.”
Allan has not entirely ruled out a return to the coaching ranks, saying that he would be interested in helping out with a junior program if someone were to get it up and running again.
“I’m hoping that there will be someone to take on the Grade 7 and 8 program and I’ll go work with the kids,” he said.
For now, though, Allan said he plans on enjoying Muskie games as a fan.
“I’m not going to miss any games if I can help it,” he said. “It’ll be very difficult to watch and not coach when I’m sitting in the stands, but we’ll see how that goes.”