Diane St-Denis has always been around sport in one way or another so when the opportunity arose to get back into the game on the front line she jumped at the chance.
“There’s a different energy at a college or university when you’re dealing with athletics and I was missing that,” said St-Denis, the Athletic Director at Red Deer College. She had previously worked at Simon Fraser University but also with provincial and national sports organizations.
“You’re at a desk and you’re not in the performance. You might be working on administrative policies and things like that but you’re not feeling it. You’re not breathing it and living it on a day to day basis.”
Some friends in the post-secondary sports loop heard about the RDC job and got in touch with her to check into the position.
So St-Denis starting doing some research on RDC , coming away with glowing reviews about the programs, the coaches and all that went with the college. She came to the conclusion RDC would be a great environment to work in.
The feeling was mutual and she was hired this past summer to take over the reins from Keith Hansen. Her first order of business was to learn more about the building where she would be working in.
“You do the same thing when you start a new job. You try to get a feel of what has been happening. Who is doing what? What are the areas of strength? What has been identified as areas of improvement?”
She needed to get a feel for the academic side of the portfolio along with how athletics is run, the history of athletics and the legacy of athletics.
“And how we fit within the community and the sports system in Alberta and I have to admit, that part of that learning is still going on every day.”
She spent time meeting with members of administration to learn more about their jobs because her feeling is athletics is not one department in the college.
“Athletics is the entire college,” she said. “Especially here at Red Deer College. We rely on a lot of different departments to help us out whether it’s our fundraising, our publications. We rely on the academic side as well to help our students be successful.”
St-Denis said she was quite impressed with the sports legacy at RDC with such a strong volleyball program but was quick to add the college hangs its hat on all sports, the athletes and coaches.
“It was one of the drawing cards for me, looking at the breadth of success they’ve had in athletics and also in academics because I’ve seen all the academic All-Canadians they’ve had over the years. That’s appealing.”
Another factor in her decision was being able to see results from working at the college level when it came to developing these young adults.
“People sometimes forget there are a lot of lessons learned through athletics. Those skills you don’t learn in a classroom but boy, the companies always look for them,” she said. “That’s what I was missing. I would wake up in the morning going, I’m not seeing the result. Well you’re seeing the result everyday if you work at a college or university.”
She has her sights set on some long term strategies for RDC, like how to fill the new Gary Harris Health, Wellness and Sports Centre coming on line and how to attract national championships.
“We want to have national championship in our building almost every year if possible. If not, then every second year.”
Another road she wants to travel down is improving athletics at the college of course but also doing something within Central Alberta.
“We’re starting to have some conversations with some provincial sports organizations. Sure you want to use our gym but how does that help us develop sport in Central Alberta? That has to be an objective for us because guess where we’re recruiting from.”
So the game plan is taking shape and the hard work to make it a success is underway. Then she will see some results.