Soccer

Winsper quits Toronto FC to work for Nike

Fitness guru Paul Winsper is leaving his job as strength and conditioning coach of Toronto FC for a new position with Nike, the Englishman confirmed to CBCSports.ca on Friday.

Fitness guru Paul Winsper is leaving his job as strength and conditioning coach of Toronto FC for a new position with Nike, the Englishman confirmed to CBCSports.ca on Friday.

Winsper, who is under contract to the MLS club until Dec. 31, said he and his family will be moving in January to Oregon, where he will serve as sports performance director for Nike.

Nike's world headquarters are in Beaverton.

Winsper, 43, said Toronto FC offered him a two-year contract extension, but the job offer from Nike that they first made to him in the summer was just too good to pass up.

"It's an unbelievable job offer that I can't really turn down. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for me," Winsper told CBCSports.ca.

Winsper, who told Toronto FC general manager of his decision to leave on Wednesday, added '"it was time to move on and try something else."

He said there was "absolutely no hard feelings" between himself and the soccer club. He also described his new position with Nike as a "dream job."

"There's only one position like this in the world, whereas there are a lot of fitness coaches in professional sports," Winsper stated.

"Nike has set up a new division called SPARQ, which is their training arm. I'll be working with teams from all over the world as a training resource for coaches. … It's going to be a global resource for all different sports."

Winsper already had a relationship with the athletic-wear company as a consultant.

"I've been working for Nike for three years, and Toronto FC have been absolutely fantastic about that. They've allowed me to travel all over the globe with Nike, even during the MLS season," Winsper explained.

The loss of Winsper is a big blow for Toronto FC, as the Englishman was a well-liked and respected figure who had a reputation for pushing players in gruelling training and workout sessions that he designed.

He joined Toronto FC prior to the start of the 2008 MLS campaign, having spent the previous 10 seasons with Newcastle United of the English Premiership where he served as the team's fitness coach.

Thanks players

With his hometown club, he worked with some of the game's biggest stars, including Michael Owen and Alan Shearer. He also worked with England star David Beckham before he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy from Real Madrid in 2007.

Winsper said he, his wife and eight-year-old son Harry will be leaving Canada with heavy hearts.

"It's quite sad because my family and I absolutely love it here in Canada," Winsper said.

"We moved here and had a wonderful time, but this is a permanent job for life with Nike and I've worked contractually for pro sports clubs for many years, and now I think is the time to settle down a bit and get a permanent position."

When word of his pending departure filtered through the halls of BMO Field on Friday, he instantly received a slew of text messages and emails from Toronto FC players.

That meant a lot to the Newcastle native.

"I want to say a huge thanks to the players because they motivated me every day and work hard. They're a great bunch of professionals," Winsper said.