Patrick Burrows: The man, the myth, the legend


Sara Flexer

Mr. Burrows reflects on his journey from the 1984 Olympics to Castilleja.

Patrick Burrows is somewhat of an icon around the Castilleja campus. But the details of his previous life as a professional field hockey player are often a mystery, and it can be crazy to think that we have an Olympian in our midst.

Burrows captained the Canadian national field hockey team between 1985 and 1990. In the summers of ‘83 and ‘87, his team won the Pan American Games, granting them automatic qualification for the Olympics the following summers.

Having competed in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics games, Burrows is definitely a star-studded athlete. He shared with us some valuable wisdom that he gained through his career, expressing, “One of the things I’ve learned over time is the commitment that’s required for playing as an athlete—some of it is attention to detail, some of it is just giving everything of yourself that you can at that time.”

Now, you might be wondering how Burrows moved from an athletic career in Canada to teaching at Castilleja. He reflected on his journey in education, saying, “After graduating from college, I was training and competing. But then I returned to school eight years later to become a teacher.” He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. By 1990, he was teaching full-time in the Canadian public school system.

Though Burrows has been able to combine his passion for athletics and teaching at Castilleja, he originally made the move to the U.S. in 1998 because of his wife. The experience of moving from Canada to the U.S. “wasn’t that big of a change” for him. The Casti community is lucky he made the move, since our sports programs and school life wouldn’t be the same without him.


Throughout his time at Castilleja, Burrows has taught physical education and served as an advisor in both the Middle and Upper Schools. He has applied his experience as an Olympic athlete to coaching students, recognizing that “you’re not going to have your greatest performance every single day. Sometimes it’s beyond your control. All you can do is be fully committed and put your best effort forward as often as possible.”

Burrows embodies this mindset while coaching a variety of sports, including basketball, soccer, tennis and swimming. Assistant Athletic Director Amy Chinn shared, “He has such a large lasting legacy. Everyone knows Mr. Burrows. Everyone has experienced him through some capacity.”

Landry Agnich ‘26 had Burrows as her advisor in 8th grade, and he provided guidance while she was coaching middle school basketball for the first time: “He has taught me how to coach the middle schoolers and helped me learn how to set a good example for them. Honestly, that season would’ve been so hard to coach if he wasn’t there, giving us guidance.”

Reflecting on what he values most about teaching students, Burrows said, “I love the fact that I can help students discover something about themselves that maybe they didn’t know they had in them.” For him, it’s all about taking different approaches when faced with challenges and “just being along for the journey.”

His enthusiasm and genuine love for coaching are felt throughout the entire school. Baylee Ha ‘23 humorously recounted her first day of middle school swimming: “Mr. Burrows asked me, ‘Hey, do you know how to swim?’ I said no. He said, ‘Cool’ and then he handed me a cap and goggles and said, ‘Go forth, swim.’” Through humor and encouragement, Mr. Burrows pushes students to always go for it, even if it might be uncomfortable at first.

Burrows’ influence has also extended beyond students to the faculty. Chinn expressed, “My first impression of him was that he was super energetic and passionate about coaching kids and making sure that everything can happen. It’s been inspirational to see his innate ability to always be excited to come to work and do all the things that he does.”

When asked to recall his favorite memory at Castilleja, Burrows said that there are “oodles” of them and couldn’t just pick one: “I just think of all the joyous moments, I think of pep rallies, and I just love seeing the gym filled with students screaming with laughter, joy, and enthusiasm.” He finds immense fulfillment in working with students, always hyping them up and keeping their energy high.

“Mr. Burrows has clearly been a positive influence—a motherly figure in my Castilleja life,” Ha said, referring to the time when she once accidentally called him “Mom.” Burrows is many students’ biggest supporter, both on and off the field. Agnich added, “Even though I don’t have him as a coach anymore, I still see him all the time around campus, and he’s always so friendly. I’m gonna miss that.”

As much as we all admire and look up to him, Burrows described that he finds great joy in working with students too. “It’s powerful and amazing just to be in the presence of students,” he earnestly remarked, “It’s such a warming feeling, and it’s something that I know energizes and inspires me.”

At the end of our interview, Burrows offered some advice to current students: “Believe in yourself. Commit to what you’re trying to do, and then find out what it’s going to take—what part of yourself you’ll have to put into that endeavor.” He stressed the importance of embracing opportunities and finding joy: “You keep doing you, keep being you, and keep showing that effort. I’ve always believed that hard work doesn’t go unrewarded.”

Burrows will be moving to the East Coast and plans to stay active by biking and playing tennis. Alongside exploring new activities, he hopes to continue working in either a coaching capacity or a school setting. “Staying involved with younger people is something that is really fulfilling to me. It’s kind of like my caffeine hit, so I always truly enjoy those opportunities.”