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Impact: Strengthening The Community Through Sport

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One of the bonafide sports icons in Fort McMurray is Sandy Bowman.  Owner of Bowman’s Tae Kwon Do, an accomplished athlete, and an inductee in the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (2012), Sandy has coached and influenced several generations of athletes.  In a recent interview on the IMPACT radio program, heard weekly on 91.1 The Bridge, he shared that setting down roots in Fort McMurray was not part of his plans.

“I finished up university in Nova Scotia in 1992 and decided to head out to BC for a job,” he shared.  “We made a side trip up to Fort McMurray to visit some uncles and aunts.  I never left.”

In the early days of being in the community, Bowman attended a couple of different clubs to continue his taekwondo training, but found that nobody was offering the calibre of training that he needed to grow.  He eventually started his own club.  Bowman’s Tae Kwon Do has operated in a number of locations over the years and provided training for scores of people, young and old.  Over 11,000 athletes have participated in his programs over the last decade alone.

As a parent, Sandy has volunteered in a number of different sports ranging from hockey and ringette to basketball and self-defence.  He co-chaired the wrestling competition as part of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games with friend and colleague Chad Rice; they will be doing the same for the boxing competition for the 2018 Alberta Winter Games.  Providing sports opportunities for young people is a huge priority for Sandy.

“Getting kids involved in sport creates good adults and good humans,” he said.  “In the process of training, they learn leadership skills, how to follow direction, camaraderie and respect.”

Bowman, his children and pets all evacuated safely to a lake lot down by Boyle when the wildfire made its way into our community.  Business is far from normal since re-entry as many of his clientele resided in the devastated neighbourhoods of Beacon Hill, Abasand and Waterways. 

“Before the evacuation, we had waiting lists for all of our programs,” he said.  “Now, we have waiting lists for a few of our classes.  We’re probably seventy-five percent of where we were before the evacuation.”

Despite the challenges that have emerged from the fire, he is passionate as ever about the role of sport in recovery.

“There is no better therapy than physical training,” he said.

Sandy had invited me to participate in last year’s Prestige event by doing a charity round with my friend and former political colleague Don Scott.  We both wore oversize gloves and went head to head and toe to toe in two one-minute rounds in the octagon to raise money for local charities.

“It was the longest minute of my life,” I said to Sandy on the radio program. 

I was gasping for breath at the end of the match and in awe of the real athletes that do five-minute rounds.

Athletes who compete for real in these kind of events, or for any other sport for that matter, put in hours and hours of training to be able to perform at a high level.

“It’s like when you see an iceberg,” said Sandy.  “That little tip on the top; that’s the fight.  The giant part at the bottom (under the water); that’s the training.”

In the early stages of preparing for the 2018 Alberta Winter Games, Bowman is sold on the value of major games events to our community. 

“When people get a taste of what it’s like to volunteer for a major sporting event, like the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, they seek out other opportunities,” he said.  “The capacity of our community is greatly enhanced when we do these events that require thousands of volunteers.”

As a 25 year resident of Fort McMurray, business owner, parent, coach and athlete, Bowman is committed to the role that sport plays in building a stronger, more resilient and remarkable community.


IMPACT is a collaboration of The United Way of Fort McMurray, FuseSocial, Shaw TV Fort McMurray and 91.1 The Bridge.  It is heard on Tuesdays at 10:30 am. It is rebroadcast on Shaw Cable 10.


Russell is a 19 year resident of Wood Buffalo, a community builder, facilitator, social media practitioner, actor, director and artist. He began his Middle Age Bulge blog as a way of capturing his journey to wellness. It has morphed into a daily journal about all aspects of life in the north. Russell works with The United Way of Fort McMurray and co-owns Birdsong Connections with his wife Heather.