First Name: John
Last Name: Kehoe
Sport: Soccer
Inductee Type: Builder
Year Inducted: 2023
Home Town: Dartmouth
County: Halifax

John Kehoe is a builder in every sense of the word. From helping to grow soccer in the province to the hundreds of young people he impacted, he has spent most of his life dedicated to making things better through the sport he loves.

“He brought so much fun to the game,” remembers Nova Scotia soccer star Mary Beth Bowie. “You could tell he enjoyed it so much and it just translated to his players. You couldn’t help but to just enjoy yourself when you were playing for John.”

You could always find John Kehoe on the field, often coaching more than one team. And if a field wasn’t available, John would find a patch of grass somewhere to act as a substitute. A teacher by trade, his summers were dedicated to life on the pitch. And his time away from the pitch was dedicated to learning more about the sport that was his passion.

“He was a student of the game,” recalls Stephanie Johnson. “He didn’t play himself, so he was self-taught. I think he watched hours and hours of film, of Premier League, of World Cups, and he passed that knowledge on to us .”

Stephanie O’Connor adds: “He would watch so many games and we would have video sessions where he would be pausing, talking, analyzing and explaining systems. You couldn’t help but learn—John was an exceptional communicator and teacher.”

For John Kehoe, soccer was a family affair, as his wife Donna tirelessly managed the teams he coached. It was no small job as he coached at every level in the province—youth, senior, university, provincial, and Canada Games. Along the way, he garnered results that included countless provincial titles and national medals. There was no shortage of success found on the field for John’s teams.

While John coached both male and female teams, it was on the female side where his impact was felt the most. Coaching one of the first female provincial teams and the first Canada Games female team, he continually fought for equity, whether it pertained to field time or funding.
He dedicated himself to providing his players opportunities for competition, travel, and a place to grow.

“He was more than just a coach to all of us, he was like our family,” says Johnson. “He was funny, kind, he did a lot of things away from soccer for a lot of the athletes on our team. He tutored kids, he had kids live with him on the weekend, he drove kids, he was just that kind of a person. He was so much more than just a coach.”

But what a coach he was! John Kehoe played a major role in the development of players who went on to play for their university teams, some becoming All Canadians, National Champions, or both. A few even got the chance to represent Canada on the international stage. If it wasn’t for the environment John and Donna Kehoe created, the story could have been very different.

“He just had this knack of knowing how to speak differently to every player,” recalls Carla Perry Ellis. “Some players needed a pat on the back and to be reassured that they were doing a good job. Other players needed a kick in the butt to be motivated. John just had that unique quality that he could tap into each individual player and bring out the best in them.”

John Kehoe’s ability to get the best out of his players was indeed uncanny. Through his dedication and commitment, they knew he cared about them on and off the field. From helping with homework to counselling through hard times, John and Donna were always there for their players. They accepted people for who they were, were able to draw on their strengths, and most importantly, brought teams together that created a family.

“If we had problems or things going on in our life, he was that safe space to talk to, non-judgemental, always had time for you,” remembers Johnson. “If you called him and said, ‘John I need to work on this, I’m not chipping the ball properly,’ he would find time in his schedule and meet you anytime of the day to work on what you needed to improve.”

Adds Perry Ellis: “He just saw something in us and had a belief in us that maybe we didn’t have ourselves, and he just was able to tap into that and bring us along. You know, he’s very modest, he would never say that it was anything to do with him, he would say it was all us. But that’s John, he doesn’t realize what he’s done for all of us.”

What John Kehoe did is evident when you look at the players he coached and how many have gone on to leadership roles in their respective careers. Many will credit the lessons taught through sport and the teammates who were brought together to form lifelong friendships. John Kehoe was the catalyst for all of this. He was not only a builder of his sport, but of the people he coached.

“John was able to create an environment that you felt proud to be a part of,” says Perry Ellis. “He gave you a sense of pride and joy in the game, and he taught you the importance of purpose and drive. To me, he’s the best coach there will ever be in women’s soccer.”

*Article by Cindy Tye*

*Featured image courtesy of The Chronicle Herald*


Developed high-performance girls’ and women’s soccer in Nova Scotia from 1985 to 2015
Coached teams to 11 Provincial Championships, 11 Atlantic Championships, and 13 appearances at National Championships
Coached teams to Canada Games silver (1993) and Canadian U16 Girls silver (the first-ever medal for an Atlantic Girls squad at any age level)
Helped develop Hall of Famers Suzanne Muir, Suzanne Gerrior, Mary Beth Bowie, and Cindy Tye