While in the midst of Campaign for Acadia, the most ambitious fundraising initiative in Acadia University’s history, vibrant and energetic community and student activity is evident on campus. Kevin Dickie, Executive Director of Athletics and Community Events, is committed to ensuring that a similar vision is embodied in the Axemen and Axewomen varsity programs. From continuing to produce the most Academic All-Canadians per capita in the country to entering their fourth straight season of hosting a U SPORTS national championship, Dickie and members of the athletics department pride themselves on building students in the classroom and pursuing excellence for each athlete and team.
Coming off back-to-back AUS titles, how does the success of the women’s basketball program impact the rest of the athletics department?
“Any championship for our athletics program, especially in a market-driven sport, is substantial. But it’s tremendous to win two years in a row. I think if you look up the definition of ‘good to great’, this team defines that right now. They’re leaders within our department and one of the teams that I believe are legitimately on the cusp of competing for a national championship. It all starts with the outstanding leadership of (head coach) Len Harvey. “
The new Acadia4U program provides many different resources for student-athletes. Touch on the details surrounding the program and how it provides another advantage for student-athletes here at Acadia.
“It’s everything, whether it’s mental health support, academic support and/or assistance with career development. We used to do these support areas as ‘one-offs’; now it’s a holistic program that will become systemic for our athletes. Again, this is because of great leadership from people like Krista Robertson, Curtis Arsenault, who is our head Athletic Therapist, and people at the student resource centre.”
You just hired former head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Acadia, Elliott Richardson, in a new role as the Manager of Student-Athlete Performance. What does this mean for him and the direction in which Acadia athletics is moving regarding high performance and sports science?
“I believe that how sports teams incorporate sports sciences can be the difference between winning and losing. But I think they’re more important for programs like ours that maybe don’t have the same financial resources as some of our competition. It’s just a fact that if you can do aspects of high performance better than those against whom you are competing, it gives you an edge. I think we have been ahead of the curve in strength and conditioning for years, but now we need to take that next step and integrate it with our tremendous programs like athletic therapy and nutrition. We also have been able to achieve great partnerships with our Kinesiology department, Canadian Sports Centre Atlantic and Kinduct in Halifax. “
How has your staff and coaches evolved and explain why you believe you have a great group of coaches?
“We really have an awesome group, and I believe they would say the same thing. Athletics is a difficult business because you’re evaluated on winning and losing. Because of that, pressure is involved. But when you can have fun coming to work every day, I think it makes it easier and helps you to be the best you can be. We have that here. I’m fortunate as an Athletics Director to share the same vision and values with each member of our coaching staff and I know everybody enjoys being a part of the Acadia family. “
What is it like at an Acadia Homecoming, and why is it special to incorporate the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on the same weekend?
“There are certain advantages to being a small school, and being able to meet new people and make connections while you’re on campus is one of them. I don’t want to make it seem like it’s any different here than other places in the country, but the connection between our present student-athletes and our alumni is special and we take it very seriously. To have the group of former builders, teams and athletes that we do, it makes every Hall of Fame ceremony memorable and I’m looking forward to the class we’re going to induct this October.”
Acadia is hosting the Men’s Hockey Nationals in 2020. What do you think the main advantage is in hosting national championships? What factors have made hosting a national championship a key objective for Acadia?
“Well, if you’re not hosting a national championship, you have a lot more time on your hands, so there’s no question that it’s taxing on your staff. That being said, the reward is so much greater. For us, it just puts Acadia on the map. We are one of only two schools hosting a national championship four years in a row, and if you include the Uteck Bowl in 2017, it would be five. That’s an incredible accomplishment for a small school.”
Is there a change in how you have had to monitor and get the most out of student-athletes within the past 15 years as an Athletics Director? If so, how have you seen this transformation and what has it looked like?
“Absolutely, and that’s a great question. I think right away it’s the pedigree of the student-athlete we’re recruiting in the first place. We need people that understand the responsibility of being in a small town and how aspects like community involvement and being leaders around campus are so important. What jumps out at me when I think of the transition I’ve seen is that the student-athletes coming in now are way more prepared from both an academic and a high-performance standpoint. It used to be that the first time some young people began working out was when they arrived on campus; now they come in wanting to achieve a higher standard. “
Within the athletics department, what are the pillars you focus on to help guide and build programs for your varsity teams?
“The three pillars we’ve had here since our first strategic plan in 2011 has been excellence academically, being servant leaders in the community, and winning. Now we have another – a focus on recreation sports. Two years ago we took over club sports on campus, and we really want to continue to make our athletics complex a welcoming environment for our 3,600 students and others in the community. “
Finally, where do you envision Acadia Athletics in the next five years?
“We’ve got a strategic plan that goes through to 2021 and, to be honest with you, we’re getting close to checking off a lot of boxes. For us, it will be the last year of hosting a national championship, at least for a little while. We really want to put more of a focus on our programs like Acadia4U and the new integrated sports science team we put together. Bottom line, we want to win more games and more championships, but it’s about doing it the right way.”