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May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
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John Gleddie: Elite coach, NASCAR adviser, medical innovator and neighbour
Chautauqua Park and Chautauqua Circle are the focal-point of John Gleddie’s neighbourhood. (Tim Taylor/Special)

It was a curious twist of fate that brought John Gleddie and his family to Niagara-on-the-Lake 25 years ago.

They had moved to town temporarily, awaiting his green card, on his way to Arlington, Texas, to become a part of the medical team for the Texas Rangers baseball club.

But that was 1994, the year of the great Major League Baseball strike/lockout.

So, no team, no contract, no move.

“Getting released galvanized my decision to stay in Niagara,” says the 65-year-old Gleddie, a chiropractor with a practice in St. Catharines, a house in Chautauqua, and a wife and two daughters, all working in Niagara.

“If there was a silver lining in the baseball strike of 1994, it was that I got to move to Niagara-on the Lake.”

Gleddie admits his career story hasn’t been straightforward or ordinary. And certainly not a straight line.

His first career thread started at the University of Toronto where he studied science, finally earning a doctor of chiropractic degree in 1976. It’s a profession he has steadfastly maintained throughout his eclectic working life.

Just a few months ago, Gleddie moved his practice, doubling its size and adding professional capacity. A Niagara doctor-rating app gives Gleddie’s practice fives stars, one of Niagara’s top five chiropractic offices.

His second career thread began during university, when he rowed for both the University of Toronto and the Argonaut Rowing Club, going on to become the Argo club’s head coach and a coach for the fledgling Upper Canada College crews at the new Hanlon Rowing Club.

Gleddie caught the attention of Rowing Canada and became an assistant coach of the Canadian women’s Olympic rowing team for the ill-fated 1980 Moscow Olympics (boycotted by many Olympic teams, including Canada’s).

Later in 1980, Gleddie came to St. Catharines to start his chiropractic practice, in his spare time taking on rowing coaching duties at Brock University and acting as the school’s part-time rowing co-ordinator from 1981 to 1987.

“Now, the role is a full-time job. Back then, I got paid $3,000 a year for 40 hours a week, every weekend, really my whole life.”

It was then that Gleddie began developing an innovative training regimen that would revolutionize the development of elite athletes engaged in long-term physically demanding sports.

Now, it’s called load management. Thirty-five years ago, Gleddie called it a response to cumulative seasonal fatigue.

This is where Gleddie’s third career stream begins.

He took his idea to a Coaches Association of Canada meeting in Vancouver. Coaches from all over North America were in attendance.

A Major League Baseball executive was in the crowd listening to Gleddie’s thesis. He thought the new training regimen might just work for high-performing major league pitchers. It wasn’t long before Gleddie was working with the likes of Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

“I worked with the Texas Rangers during the baseball season, returning to my practice in the winter,” says Gleddie.

In 2002, Gleddie turned his attention to NASCAR racing drivers, particularly those in the gruelling 24-hour races. To his load management theories, he added proper hydration practices for drivers in the endurance events.

“I was a sort of weekend warrior,” Gleddie states proudly. “Chiropractor during the week. Consultant to NASCAR drivers on the weekend. I was with the Porsche team for 13 years.”

“I took care of three of the top guys in NASCAR: Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.”

Since 2015, Gleddie has returned to his practice full-time and a more sedate existence in Niagara-on-the-Lake, taking on the role of president of the Chautauqua Residents Association.

Many of his neighbours call him the Mayor of Chautauqua.

The residents association, in its various forms, has been fostering local spirit for almost 70 years. “It’s not really an advocacy group. It’s neighbours looking out for neighbours,” Gleddie says. “And we have great social events, too.”

“Last year, we donated $2,500 towards new trees to help rebuild the secondary tree canopy.”

Gleddie’s wife, Martha, works at Morgan’s Funeral Home. Their two daughters attended Parliament Oak and Niagara District High School. One daughter has gone on to a career in the local real estate business, the other with the Niagara Regional Police.

Gleddie continues to nurture all three of his career streams: chiropractic, rowing and elite sport training.

A year ago, Gleddie was given the honour of having a St. Catharines Rowing Club rowing shell named after him, for his continued financial, coaching and leadership contributions to the club.

He’s not decided yet if he will retire from coaching this coming season.

“I really don’t know what’s next for me,” Gleddie claims. “Just being a mild-mannered chiropractor, I guess.”

But he’s not finished his work on athlete load management and hydration practices.

“I’d still like to pursue my research into the ties between cumulative seasonal fatigue and hydration.”

Even if it’s sometimes hard to follow his medical sports-speak, you know his passion will get important things done. And he’s still having fun.