The Royal treatment
By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications
Brian McLennon, Manager of Athletics at Douglas, has been named the 2018 CCAA Athletic Director of the Year. This award recognizes an athletic director who has made a significant contribution to their institution over the past academic year.
This season alone, the Royals earned four provincial gold medals and, for the first time in 10 years, the PACWEST Aggregate Championship Trophy. At the national level, they won gold for men’s curling, and silver for men’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s basketball.
So, how does Brian feel about being named Athletic Director of the Year?
“It’s humbling and emotional. I always dreamed of being an athletic director, even as far back as high school, but getting this sort of recognition isn’t something I set out to do. I’d rather the award was for the athletic department of the year, because this success isn’t mine alone, it belongs to everyone who worked to get us to where we are.”
When he took the manager position, in 2014, Brian’s goal was to create a place where student athletes could develop and flourish in all aspects of their lives, not just in sports. So, Brian organized a retreat for department staff as a team-building opportunity and a chance to plan how to shift their department more student-centric.
“We asked ourselves, ‘how can we be the best athletics department in Canada?’ The answer: by creating the best student experience, one that wasn’t focused on things like fancy facilities and money. Instead, we want to enhance their experience through volunteer opportunities, leadership, advocacy, et cetera,” says Brian.
In fact, Brian feels so strongly about creating an inclusive culture for his students that they now have a regular presence at the annual retreats and are consulted in the hiring of coaches.
All this focus on students is paying off. Not only are teams bringing home more wins, but the average GPA of student athletes has increased over the past couple years from 2.5 to nearly a 3.0, in some instances.
Brian began his own sports career at the University of Prince Edward Island on a basketball scholarship, and transferred to Douglas to study Sport Science. He’d intended to focus only on his studies, but found it hard to sit on the sidelines, and eventually joined the Royals men’s basketball team.
This led to other opportunities at Douglas. He organized recreation events for international students and got involved with the Douglas Students’ Union doing mentorship and advocacy. He even worked in the Athletics Department in “nearly every position”, including building their first website. After leaving the College to pursue other opportunities, he was hired as Manager of Athletics in 2014.
Despite how far the Athletics Department has come, Brian says they can still do better.
“There is so much more we can do to improve the student experience and take a more holistic approach to their wellness, to ensure they are ready for success once they stop being an athlete. We want to get them out into the community more in non-sports ways, so they can learn how to connect with a variety of people. Additionally, we want to create opportunities for students outside of athletics to get involved with the Royals through their own areas of study. Our involvement with the College should go both ways.”