Fran Eberhard (Wigston)

            Through a sense of dedication instilled upon her at a very early age by her encouraging parents, Fran Eberhard grew up a successful athlete at a time when girls’ sports were never afforded any significant attention.

            However, her athletic ability was such that Fran was able to remain competitive even when playing against boys. Her talent in basketball, volleyball, track and field, and swimming allowed her to pursue athletics into university. At the University of Western Ontario, Fran contributed to every sports team she competed on, but more importantly, she began to develop a sense of what it took to be a successful coach of women’s sports. This would prove to be the beginning of Ms. Eberhard’s lifelong journey to elevate the status of women’s sport. In doing so, Fran sought to alleviate the restrictions she had faced as a young girl trying to enjoy organized competition.

In 1957, Fran became a physical education teacher at South Secondary School in London. After implementing changes that eventually caught on throughout the public school system in the city, she accepted a position at Althouse College; an institution dedicated to training secondary school teachers. In this role, Fran could influence the very manner in which school sports were offered to young women. This would allow those talented and dedicated enough to pursue higher goals than were available to Fran and her contemporaries.

Fran eventually returned to coaching, and her resume as a team manager is an impressive one. The sheer number of sports that she was able to successfully coach, and the level that she coached those sports at (Fran Eberhard led the Ontario women’s volleyball team to three national championships) shows how effective a motivator she was. Fran Eberhard occupies an important place in the development of women’s sport in Canada, and her highest belief that her athletes become even better people than they were sportswomen speaks volumes about her infectious and impressionable character.

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