KAMLOOPS, BC—The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack have their new Athletics and Recreation Director.
Curtis Atkinson has been chosen to fill the position vacated by Ken Olynyk when he retired in December. Atkinson becomes the second Athletics and Recreation Director since the program became the WolfPack in 2006.
The 40 year old Atkinson was most recently the Associate Director of Sport for the Canada West Universities Athletic Association. He was one of over 25 applicants for the position when the search for a replacement for Olynyk began in late October.
“I am thrilled and honored to be named Director, Athletics and Recreation at TRU and to take over from someone who I have so much respect for,” stated Atkinson.” I am excited to work with a committed group of student-athletes, coaches, and staff on our path to academic and athletic excellence.”
He adds, “There is much to like about WolfPack Athletics and Recreation. TRU has shown an ability to recruit some of the best athletes in the country and to field teams that have competed at a high level in Canada West and nationally. There is an experienced and talented group of coaches, and a dedicated team of administrative staff. I am also impressed by the level of engagement from other campus units and the leadership and support from senior administration.”
Vice President, Administration and Finance at Thompson Rivers, Matt Milovick welcomed Atkinson to the fold at a press conference Wednesday (Jan 3) morning. “Speaking both personally and on behalf of the search committee, we are thrilled to welcome Curtis to the Wolfpack/TRU. Curtis’ enthusiasm for University sport and his extensive sports administration background at the University of Regina and with Canada West positioned him perfectly for this role. As we expected, the competition for the position was extremely tough but it was clear given his interpersonal style and his sports pedigree that Curtis was the perfect fit for the WolfPack.”
From December 2014 to June 2016, Atkinson was the Interim Athletics Director with the University of Regina Cougars. He had worked at the University of Regina in various capacities beginning in June, 2007. Those positions included Athletics Coordinator, Athletic Coordinator: Marketing and Event Management and Assistant Facilities Coordinator.
Educationally, Atkinson has a Bachelor of General Studies from Brandon University (2001), Bachelor of Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia (2004) and a Master of Science in Kinesiology and Health Studies from the University of Regina (2015). He is a graduate of LV Rogers Secondary in Nelson, BC—a place where Atkinson spent most of his formative years after being born in Kamloops. He played junior hockey as a goalie.
Atkinson then played at Brandon University before they eliminated their men’s hockey program (1998-2001).
Milovick believes Atkinson will build upon the program that Olynyk started at Thompson Rivers. “As this community knows, Ken left behind a tremendous legacy and a strong foundation for where we want to go next. We’ve demonstrated that we can compete on the national stage. We’ve demonstrated that TRU develops student athletes who are outstanding in their sports and just as equally outstanding in the classroom and in the community. We think we’ve found the right leader who not only shares those attitudes and values and given Curtis’ experiences, we’re certain he’ll make his own mark and have a lasting impact on the program for years to come.”
Milovick adds: “Curtis is a guy that lives and breathes University sport. As a former CIS athlete himself, he understands the value of sport in a post-secondary context. This is what he does and from everything we’ve seen and heard, he does it really, really well. With Curtis at the helm, the future of athletics and recreation at TRU is a bright one.”
Atkinson also has experience working with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes in Promotions and Fan Development and with BC Recreation and Parks Association and Sport BC.
Atkinson has an extensive resume as a volunteer including being a coach in the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association. He also worked with the WHL Regina Pats coding live video for their coaching staff, the Carolina Junior Hurricanes evaluating players, was an assistant coach with the Duke University club hockey team, and was a committee member of Coquitlam KidSport.
When asked about what his main challenges will be at the helm of the TRU program, Atkinson said, “Challenging for championships in Canada West is not an easy task. There are 17 Canada West members – 7 in B.C. alone. While all members don’t compete in every sport, we are all competing for the best student-athletes and, ultimately, the chance to represent our conference in U SPORTS championships. We must find a way to separate ourselves from our competition by offering the best student-athlete experience possible. “
And added, “Funding in Canadian university sport is always top-of-mind. To set ourselves apart, we may have to look for alternative sources of funding, or allocate existing funds differently to compete with the best in the country.”
Atkinson officially takes over on January 15, 2018. He is married to Doctor Heather Price (faculty member at Thompson Rivers University and Canada Research Chair). They have two children: Kaia (9) and Nash (7).
He becomes the fourth Athletics and Recreation director in the institutions history following in the footsteps of Pat O Brien, Tracy Bilsky and Olynyk.
WOLFPACK TRACKS: Atkinson on what programs he saw at the University of Regina that he would like to implement at Thompson Rivers: “My time at the University of Regina was invaluable. I worked with fantastic people and learned from strong leaders. In my view, the University of Regina ran first-rate events (including conference and national championships) and had one of the strongest university-funded athletic scholarship programs in the country. I will have to do a full review of our programs/operations here, but will certainly look at incorporating some of our strengths from Regina with our program here.”
Atkinson on his priority list for the WolfPack: “Our number one priority will be to have a high graduation rate. When student-athletes choose TRU, I want them to be here for 4-5 years and leave with a degree. I would also like our program to be near the top of the country for student-athletes who attain Academic All-Canadian status.”
He goes onto say, “I believe retaining student-athletes at a high rate is also attached to competitive success – competitive success is important to me. Winning championships at this level is difficult to do, but I want all WolfPack teams to achieve sustained levels of success. This includes consistently qualifying for playoffs, putting ourselves in a position to compete for conference championships, and seeing our student-athletes recognized by Canada West and U SPORTS for outstanding individual performances. “
And Atkinson adds, “We hear this often in university sport, but I would like to see increased attendance at varsity events. Our athletes are incredibly talented and spectators won’t be disappointed when they see them compete in person. Recreation is unique in that it can engage our entire campus population in a healthy and impactful way. I want to determine the needs of the campus, and continue to offer meaningful opportunities that yield strong physical, emotional, and social benefits for as many people as possible.”