Fall Term Summary – From Acadia’s Director of Athletics

Athletic Director Kevin Dickie summarizes the fall of 2011 season

story courtesy of acadiau.ca 06/12/2011 2:21 pm

Submitted by Fred SgambatiWOLFVILLE, NS – The first half of Acadia University’s 2011-12 Athletics program wrapped up Friday, Dec. 2 at Acadia Arena when the varsity hockey Axemen hosted the St. Mary’s Huskies at 7 p.m. But a quick look at the fall term suggests there has been plenty to celebrate already.

Four of Acadia’s 10 varsity teams were ranked in the CIS top 10 during the fall term: football; rugby; hockey; and women’s basketball. That’s 40 per cent and pretty solid, according to Director of Athletics Kevin Dickie.

In terms of profile, adds Dickie, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog. I believe that Acadia has some magic to it that you can’t find anywhere else in the country and I think this part of it proves that we can be a national player.”

In athletics and right across the institution there is an unflagging determination to be the best. “Most critical, from a sports perspective, is winning the right way,”Dickie says. “Not compromising the integrity of the classroom, doing good things in the community and turning out well-rounded people.”

Three pillars help to define excellence in the Athletics program:

  • Academics
  • Community
  • Sport

“It all fits with our core values at Acadia,” Dickie notes. “Along with being outstanding in the sports arena, we are striving also to pursue excellence academically and produce good people in the community.” The 10 teams are part of one program, one brand and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Individual and team achievement are important benchmarks. This fall, the Axemen football team nabbed the AUS championship, was a national semi-finalist, and head coach Jeff Cummins was named CIS Coach-of-the-Year. “It brought so much positivity to our campus and our alumni,” Dickie said, “and I’m not sure that anything galvanizes alumni at times like success in athletics.

“Our student-athletes have a commitment to attempt to create something that’s bigger than our program. We have an obligation to be the best we can be for the university and the people who have come before us. That being said, we also have to keep getting better as a program and keep improving,” he added.

Richly rewarding

The fall term, from a team perspective, was richly rewarding. The rugby squad competed for the AUS title against defending national champions and eventual CIS silver medalist St. F.X.

The women’s cross-country team made an appearance in Maclean’s magazine’s 21stannual University Rankings edition, which identified Acadia as a top undergraduate school in the country and marked the 19thtime that Acadia has placed in the top three.

“It goes to show,” Dickie suggested, “that it’s not just about winning on the track; it’s winning in the classroom, too.”

He says each student-athlete at Acadia devotes approximately 45 hours to class and class-related activities and at least another 20 hours a week to their respective sports: breaking down video, practices, games, strength and conditioning and community involvement.“Sixty-five hours each week of their time is devoted to the University and the community,” Dickie says. “It’s a big commitment and really a story in itself.”

The discipline required to meet such diverse commitments is there, however, evidenced in the fact that Acadia had 85 academic All-Canadians in 2010-11. To be named an academic All-Canadian, a student-athlete must maintain an 80 per cent or higher grade point average.

“That put us number nine in the country in terms of total numbers,” Dickie says, “but if you look at the comparative group in the top 10, it’s not even close in terms of size of school or athletic programs. When we did the math – 85 relative to the number of student-athletes we have – we were clearly number one in the country out of that top 10 group.”

Other marquee accomplishments included Owen Klassen in men’s basketball and Cummins, Jake Thomas and Tom Labenski in football representing Canada at world championships in their respective sports this summer.

Solid example

A significant number of student-athletes received AUS and CIS individual recognition as well, “but if you really want to exemplify what being a student-athlete is all about at Acadia,” Dickie observed, “look at Cathleen Bleakney.”

Bleakney, co-captain of the Axewomen soccer team, was honoured as the CIS Women’s Soccer Community Service Award recipient. It’s given annually to a Canadian university soccer student-athlete who best combines athletic ability, academic excellence and community service.

“She represents everything you would hope for in a student-athlete,” Dickie said. “A great athlete, really good in the classroom, and selfless for what she does in the community.”

An Academic All-Canadian, Bleakney volunteers with organizations and causes in the community and on campus, including at Camp Brigadoon for kids and youth living with chronic illness; at Port Williams School, where she teaches a young girl how to read; with Acadia’s Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience (SMILE) program; and as a race marshal at the Run for the Cure event with her Acadia teammates to name only a few.

The Athletics Department also reached out to constituents this fall with a survey that wrapped up Dec. 2. Response was tremendous and Dickie stressed the importance of staying connected and capturing feedback from Acadia’s many fans, alumni and patrons.

A good example of community connection was the opening this fall of a new Fitness Centre in the former Auxiliary Gym at the Arena Complex. In the first three months of operation, September to November, “our fitness facility is up by over 2,500 visits compared to the same time last year,” Dickie notes. The Centre has become a campus and community focal point that underscores the Athletic department’s efforts to stay connected.

“Right now, we’ve got a lot of positive energy and a lot of momentum that has built throughout the fall term. I couldn’t be more impressed with our phenomenal group of coaches and staff and with what our student-athletes have accomplished in this first half. For me now, we have to continue to pursue excellence and strive to be the best we can be.” Full steam ahead.

For additional information on Acadia Athletics, visit www.acadiaathletics.ca