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  • Karen Gasbarino

Jordan Ford: One. More. TIME.

Updated: Jan 25



de·ter·mi·na·tion

/dəˌtərməˈnāSH(ə)n/

noun

  1. firmness of purpose; resoluteness. "he advanced with an unflinching determination"

2023 began as the last several years have; with a polar bear plunge. Only, due to the flu running through the house, Jordan Ford opted to “dip” in his garage to open the new year; the annual cleanse. Off with the old, and onto the new.


Ford is nothing if not driven by his routines; whether superstitious or something else as a motivating factor, Ford wasn’t going to miss his annual “plunge.”


This is the ‘go big or go home’ approach to life that Jordan Ford embodies. He’ll do whatever it takes to shock the system out of the mundane. And he never settles for second best. If he doesn’t get it right, he goes again until he does.


He regularly posts videos which begin with “this is your daily dose of ‘get off your ass’” and a message intended to motivate. He offers his pep talks as he’s running down a dark, snowy road (5 am or 10 pm; take your pick), cycling through a rainstorm, or just up and doing something – anything – while the rest of us sleep.


Why is Jordan Ford, the 29 year old former Upright Rugby player and current personal trainer & motivational influencer, so driven?

It could well be a result of past missteps, where Ford is running as fast as he can away from tumultuous times toward a bright future, one of his own creation. It hasn’t always been easy for the young man. A history of abuse, which evolved into self-abuse, and a lifetime of hiding his true emotions made it very difficult for Ford to look at himself in the mirror for many years. He never wants another person to feel that way.


A graduate of Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and former Golden Hawk Scrumhalf, for the longest time the ultimate dream was to play rugby at the highest level. As he says, to “wear the Maple Leaf proudly on my chest.” He traveled the world, played on some of the best teams, and kept shooting for the day the call would come. Yet, he was living a troubled double-life. It was a lot to maintain for so long and it took its toll, mostly on his mental health.


The Big Dream began in grade 9 at Bear Creek Secondary School in Barrie, Ontario, when with great determination (there’s that word, get used to seeing it) Ford tried out for the junior rugby team. Coach Doug Wilkey shares that Ford refused to accept defeat; he quickly became the hardest working player on the field.


Coach Wilkey’s memory of that time says it all:

“When Jordan was in grade 9, a poster on the staff room wall listed the students with various life-threatening medical and health conditions. In the mix of epilepsy, asthma, and heart conditions was a picture of little Jordan Ford. The ailment was unknown, and the only description below his picture said "Must Not Play Rugby".

Besides being undersized, pudgy, and slow (I say this with the love only a good coach could have), Jordan had an issue with his nose. His mom was deathly afraid that he would risk permanent damage if he played a contact sport without a helmet.

Guess who showed up for try-outs that fall!

We don't make cuts in high school rugby, especially in grade 9. Guys usually cut themselves because of the learning curve, toughness, and amount of training involved. I was deathly afraid he was going to get killed out there.

But like Jordan does, he overcame. Overcame his mother's protectiveness. Overcame his lack of size and ability.

How did he do that? Hard Work. That's what he does. He has the heart of a lion. Nothing or no one could ever hold him back from doing something he sets his mind to.

By the time Jordan was in grade 12, he was a machine. He was the captain of the team, and easily stood above others (despite his size) in sheer talent, determination, and grit. He was an easy choice for MVP of the team.

I could never be prouder of seeing him grow up from that young kid with the picture on the wall: "Must Not Play Rugby". Thank goodness these barriers never stopped him. It doesn't surprise me he continues to smash through barriers to this day.”


This story could end right there. I could dust off my hands and hit send.


But it doesn’t end there, because that same ‘go big or go home’ approach to life Ford embodies took him down the wrong path for a time. Secretly, he spent too many years addicted to some pretty hard core drugs, just about derailing his own life before it had the chance to properly begin.


We’re not going to dwell on that, because Ford doesn’t. Though he doesn’t deny it’s part of his past, he refers to it in a way so that others who struggle may see that you are not defined by your missteps. That if he could take control of his addictions and use them to fuel him, anyone can.


This is a positive story.


Jordan Ford is one of the most positive people out there. And with the socials so full of judgment and hate, you won’t find ANY of that on his various feeds.


Because ultimately, with the abundance of determination he was graced with, along with the love and support of some key individuals – many of them rugby coaches – who just believed so strongly in him, Ford overcame. He graduated from Laurier, became a certified personal trainer, and started helping others burst through any barriers keeping them from being their optimum selves.


In grade two he wrote an autobiography which included a list of goals that he never deviated from:

  1. Become a professional athlete

  2. Own a gym

  3. Become a firefighter


Not content to just help others and settle into a nice, safe, quiet routine, Ford kept driving himself to his own limits and beyond. At every turn there was another challenge to overcome. When he thought he had completed the hardest challenge in his life, he found another even harder challenge.


Thus the mantra: One More Time.

On days he doubted his abilities or his mental stamina, he would look at his rugby boots. On them was neatly printed “OMT”. One More Time. One more throw. One more kick. One more tackle. One more day. Now it’s a clothing brand Jordan has developed: www.omtteam.com. He says “I used rugby as an outlet for everything in my life. But going into university, Rugby definitely saved my life. In first year I failed all my courses. The captain at the time knew of my addiction and went to the head coach, who wrote a letter to the Dean of Athletics.” In the letter, Coach wrote “I don’t think we need Jordan as much as Jordan needs us.” A second chance was negotiated.


Ford doubled down on his studies, took summer courses for his remaining time at Laurier, and continued to excel on the pitch. “It was the first eye-opening situation where I realized that rugby was really keeping me 'here'.” He never shared that OMT meant more than just the training goals he’d set for himself. But secretly, Ford knew the double meaning, remaining hyper focussed on it. One more time. One more day. “Now it’s tattooed on my stomach and on my knee just above my kneecap where I could always see it in my rugby shorts.” It crosses each aspect of his life, something Ford shares with others. “I tell my clients all the time, when you get tired just tell yourself one more rep. If you keep saying it, the next thing you know you’ve done 20 more reps.”


While playing Rugby on a contract in New Zealand four years ago, Ford learned of the overdose death of a good friend. It was a sobering moment; Ford realized with certainty that he was headed in the same direction. Over the years he’d dabbled fairly seriously with percocet, oxycontin, and cocaine. In that instant, he was done with it. All of it. “I had a really weird life with addiction. I always justified it as being ‘not that bad’ because I went to University and I play rugby and I can hold a job. I justified it by saying ‘I’m not addicted, I just like to party’.” Knowing people with much more serious addictions, Ford kept up the lie until that day. “I had a pretty twisted idea of what it meant to be an addict until I got help for it,” he says matter-of-factly. He credits that friend, Sam, with saving his life. He played out his contract and sought help upon returning home. It was then that he’d realized he’d been living in active addiction for six or seven years.


“Speaking it into existence keeps me on the straight and narrow but it also shows people that it doesn’t matter if this is where you are right now, you can turn it around if you choose to.” By sharing on the days he’s struggling, he believes it will help others as well as himself. Ultimately, that’s the goal. Further, putting a spotlight on mental health helps the youth he coaches realize that even their idols and sporting heroes have probably gone through something in their lives, and that it doesn’t make you soft. As we say in rugby, “it’s ok to be not okay.”


Jordan Ford still plays rugby, but recently the dream to represent at a higher level was shelved.


Not an easy decision, and one Ford struggled with. As an influencer, he’s used to sharing his accomplishments. He’s also brutally honest about what he considers his failures. By sharing, he hopes his words will resonate with others. On January 5th he posted a raw and heartfelt statement about letting rugby go. Stepping away from rugby, he said, was the hardest decision he’d ever made. “It hurt because it was a realization that I didn’t accomplish my dreams. It hurt because it was my entire identity since I was 14,” he began. He went on to talk about the brothers he met and the travels he was so fortunate to have before realizing he would never reach the pinnacle of the sport.


But true to Jordan Ford’s philosophy on life, he goes on to say: “Never in a million years did I expect what would come from closing one door and opening another.

“I’ve always known I was destined for something bigger. Through my trials and tribulations, through abuse, addiction, and then triumph I could never have pictured the doors that I’ve opened and will continue to open.” As I read Ford’s words, it struck me that these were not doors opened for him; instead, as always, he was the author of his own story. He was the one opening the doors for himself. He goes on to say that while 2020 was “heartbreak”, 2021 became the era of ultra endurance, and 2022 was the realization that “my purpose is bigger than the game” and “more important than I ever could have thought.”


The birth of his son, marathons, triathlons, Ironman, and an amazing 100km ultra marathon from Barrie to the CN Tower in Toronto illustrated to Ford that his purpose was greater than the oval ball.


But that kid in grade 9, the one who was a little slow and pudgy, that guy was arguably shaped by his experiences within rugby, and the people he met. Relationships forged in the mud and locker rooms that he still treasures to this day.

Those people stood by him during times he couldn’t believe in himself. He is made stronger by those connections, and that 14-year-long belief that he COULD. Determination.


Friend and former club rugby coach Claudia Popp is a big fan of Jordan Ford’s. She has known him over a decade and considers the young man part of her family. When she met him, she says, his “struggles were evident but yet he pursued life ferociously.” Clearly in awe of Ford’s spirit and drive, Popp says “Since I’ve known him he has acknowledged his demons openly with no shame but with the utmost determination to overcome and become better.


“As a grown man now with a family of his own, he is fiercely protective of the life he has built and has a drive to do better and contribute. He has overcome those struggles and makes an active decision daily to create opportunities for others,” she shares. “I am proud of him and who he has become and consider myself privileged to know him.”

Another former coach, Mike Collins, also considers Jordan Ford part of his family. He echoes others’ sentiments that Ford will do anything for another person. The young man has had such an impact on the Collins family, that daughter Amelia recently named him one of her heroes in a school project. The choice was a simple one, Amelia felt. “He’s strong, brave, inspirational, and still fun. He makes me want to do better without judgment or yelling. He wants to help others, and he IS helping others."


When Collins talks about Ford’s sheer will and perseverance, despite his size, despite not always being the best, there is the sense of that same awe shared by Wilkey and Popp. He says: “in conversation with his previous coaches, there was something unique and special about his tenacity and heart when he played. He wasn't the biggest or the fastest but he had heart and a fierce determination.” A supporter and friend for life, Collins says “today I continue to be proud of the example he has become to my daughter and myself. Jordan is not an underdog but a champion. I'm very proud of the man he is proving himself to be.” Ford is an inspiration, Collins says, leads by example, and coaches with compassion and deep care.

Director of Upright Rugby Tyler Leggatt extolled Ford’s skills and work rate. But it’s what he said that wasn’t really part of his quote that resonated with me the most. “I am just so very impressed with Jordan, all he's accomplished and all he has built in his life,” Leggatt says. “He is a real inspiration and someone who I truly respect. I envy him for his personal commitment to his self-growth and development. All of us want to improve our lives and grow in a positive way but there are very few that want to do this with authenticity and commitment the way that Jordan has – let alone to share his passion and commitment with others. He's a real beauty and I feel so blessed to know him.”


While Jordan Ford encourages others to believe in themselves, there is a sense it is never good enough for himself on a personal level. He is honest – brutally at times – when he falls short of one of the many goals he has set for himself. He is shredded beyond belief but lives in a sort of fear of losing all he has gained. He approaches his fitness journey and life in general with the attitude that it’s precious and potentially fleeting.


Ford believes intensely in everyone’s innate ability to forge their own paths. He means it when he says “get off your ass” and go do something. He knows more than anyone that if you just start moving, it can – and will – change your life. He has helped countless people realize their fitness goals, and has been a kind ear to them when they’ve needed a sounding board. If there is anyone who recognizes the mental component that goes hand in hand with the physical, it’s Jordan Ford.

As if all his accomplishments in recent years aren’t enough, Ford has secretly been working behind the scenes on number three on his goals list. Ambitious not just to better himself but to help others, Jordan has just graduated as a Firefighter. He announced it in late 2022.


All the ways Ford works to improve himself, improve his community, and help others get him noticed. Ford was delighted to be named a lululemon Brand Ambassador in early spring of 2022. A fitting choice given all that he epitomizes. A real person who has genuinely climbed mountains both figuratively and literally. A great choice as an inspirational figure.


Ford inspires daily. He inspires the kids he coaches, the people he trains, the teams he works and trains with, his friends and family, and those lucky enough to follow him on social media. He’s probably helped people he doesn’t even know, and that’s just fine with him.

There are no plans to slow down or stop. There is only the push forward. 2023 promises more challenges and accomplishments. Building on $30,000 raised for the youth in Barrie; there is a half ironman competition in July and at least three marathons and another two half-marathons on the schedule – so far. Further, Ford just got certified as a Firefighter and is already actively involved in the Essa Township Fire Service as a volunteer while he applies to different departments for a full time placement. And there is always treasured time with family; being the best fiancee to Tamiah and Dad he can be. Being a great Dad is probably what Ford would consider the biggest goal he’s set for himself.


And while he’s safely packed away his dream of playing rugby, there is still the effect the game has had on him which he pays forward through coaching. There will also always be the way it touched his life in evidence on the daily. He says the dream ended. I say it paved the way.


Nothing but the best for this young man with so much more ahead of him. With determination, Jordan Ford will always go one…more…time.


Karen L. Gasbarino, January 2023

Rugby Hive Editor


Jordan Ford’s socials are full of inspiration and can-do philosophy:

Jordanford.omt TeamOMT


Jordan has made helping at-risk youth his mission. At the start of 2023 started a social media initiative where people can donate and tell him what you would like him to do with the money for youth. Recently he took three kids shopping with him to lululemon with $500.00 each. Link to PayPal: https://www.paypal.me/Fordy9?locale.x=en_CA


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