Skip to content

Alicia Gal's fitness philosophy earns well deserved recognitions

'I was really touched by the generosity and confidence that they gave me as I was a young coach and trying to show myself'

Pursuit is sports feature series highlighting athletes, coaches, and staff and significant sporting events from North Bay and the surrounding area.               


Coaching has always been a big part of Alicia Gal’s life.

“When I was in North Bay Natasha Selin and I started a hockey school when we were about 12 or 13 years old with Denise Vendetti and Michelle Cundari. Long-time North Bay hockey/skating coach Dan Selin helped us. We branched out on our own and ran a girls hockey school. Then I started coaching youth soccer, everybody from three years old right to 18–21-year-olds.”

Gal says she was always drawn to coaching teams that needed someone who was dedicated to helping them learn.

“I always took a team that had players that deserved a great coach and maybe didn’t always get that. I went into an age group that seemed to have cliques and I took the kids who weren't part of the cliques. I showed them that they deserved a great coach too.”

But she says hockey was her big break, thanks to Nipissing Lakers Men’s Hockey Assistant Coach John Couch.

“John and Jamie Young and Mike Reise oversaw the U18 AAA Trappers and they hired me to be their Conditioning Coach. I spent three years with them on and off the ice, teaching these guys how to work out and focus on gaining muscle and things like that.”

Gal says it was rare at the time for a young woman to have that kind of role with a men’s hockey team.

“Back then, doing this was extremely new, so it was kind of really nice to have the support of such awesome men in your life.”

From there, Nipissing Lakers Men’s Hockey Head Coach Mike McParland brought Gal on to his staff during her placement for her Bachelor's in Health and Physical Education at Nipissing University.

“I worked with off-ice conditioning and got to coach one practice so that was kind of cool. I was really touched by the generosity and confidence that these men gave me as I was a young coach and trying to show myself, and more so showing stuff that people didn't expect or wasn’t really the trend.”

After earning that bachelor's degree, Gal moved to Ottawa to attend Carleton University, working on a degree in Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, before pursuing her Masters of Applied Science at the same school. It was there she had a chance to run in that led to her continuing her passion for coaching.

“This is why you should always be nice to people because you never know. I ran into a girl, Marta Wein, who I took homeroom with, in high school at St. Joseph Scollard Hall she was running the gym at Carleton, and they were building a brand-new gym and she was in charge of outfitting it. I talked to her and she offered me a job at the gym,” says Gal.

“Marta and I got that gym going and then I started getting on the fitness instructor schedule. There were a couple of changeovers with different people running the fitness department, but my last boss, Mark Nadon, helped support me and nominated me for this Fitness Instructor of the Year Award from the licensing body and one of my patrons, who is a professional storyteller, blogged about that award.”

Gal says she caught the eye of Darrell Adams, who was coaching the Defensive Line for Carleton’s men's football team, the first year they brought a men's football team back to Carleton.

“He approached me and asked if I wanted to be the Stretch Coach for Ravens football. I worked with men's football for three years and again that was at a time when stretching and yoga and things like that were not really cool for the male athlete. But in our second year, we had this campaign and it was “Football does yoga too.”

Gal was part of a staff that brought Ravens men’s soccer back to being a nationally ranked program – winning a national silver and bronze medal, and also assisted with the women’s soccer and ringuette teams at the school.

“I was their Biomechanics Coach and I would be at practice with them. Putting them through warm-ups. We had the famous phrase, ‘Why are my pylons moving? Pylons don't move. You move. If I saw a pylon out of place, that was a big no-no. The focus was on moving your body around this field and doing it smoothly. Smooth is greatness. That was the philosophy, that was the team goal and that's what we promoted.”

Recently, she has done work with the local swim team ROCS – working with younger athletes but getting the same kind of great results.

“I worked with one group for the first four months of the season, and I got the second group for about one month and after a meet, they came in to the next practice and said, ‘we have something to tell you. We just crushed it!’ They had 35 swimmers each in four races each, and 32 out of 35 went four for four in personal bests, the other three went three for four. It was the first time ever that the whole club had placed, in a long time. And I just thought, ‘Now you know why I make you do this. The hard work pays off, right?”

Gal has constantly looked for ways to improve and further her career.

“My PhD gave me accessibility training and I will be the only fitness instructor coach in the world who has this accessibility training and it's about inclusive and universal design.”

And these accomplishments have earned her many accolades and awards including a Nipissing University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholar, and recognition as a Top 3 Finalist for CanFitPro – Fitness Professional of the Year.

“It's overwhelming sometimes,” she says about these recognitions. “It kind of came out of nowhere and it's just nice. It's nice in a non-egotistical way, it's nice to know that people see and care enough to reach out and want to support what I’m doing.” Gal is now the owner of G2 Motion Intelligence Inc., a company that was started based on her contract working with the National Research Council of Canada.

“Technically my company is a technology research company,” says Gal. “I'm working at the Flight Research Laboratory in Ottawa. I'm working with maritime helicopter pilots trying to minimize job-related injuries to pilots and co-pilots who are on long flights wearing aviation life support equipment. My job is to make sure the study is ready to go and able to perform the findings needed to assess pilot potential injuries.”

Gal says getting into the world of fitness and coaching has to be truly for a love of wanting to see yourself and others get better at what they do.

“You’ve got to love it and it can't be about money, because then you'll ruin it. Sometimes you will have to do it for free regardless. Start by volunteering and not being afraid to put yourself out there,” she says.

“My ideas were brand new at some point and people used to tear me down like there was no tomorrow. And honestly, they were all wrong. So have faith in yourself, but listen as well, because if someone's challenging you, that's a good thing. It means you scare them and maybe you want to listen to them because maybe they know something, and maybe they're going to help you make your idea even better because they're going to point something out that you would have never thought about. No two people think the same way. The more people you can help make your toolbox better, the more powerful you are.”

If you have an idea for the "Pursuit" series, send Matt an email at [email protected] 

Reader Feedback

Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
Read more