KAMLOOPS — Thompson Rivers University has named its fourth athletic director in the history of the post secondary institution, which opened in 1970 as Cariboo College.
Curtis Atkinson takes over from Ken Olynyk, who retired last month after holding the position for 14 years.
40-year old Atkinson was born in Kamloops, and spent most of his growing up years in Nelson.
Atkinson comes into the TRU job with a wealth of experience in Canada West and USports.
His resume is a busy one --- a former Canada West student athlete as a hockey goaltender at the University of Brandon.
Atkinson worked in promotions with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes, with Sport B.C., with B.C. Recreation and Parks, a video coach with the Regina Pats, assistant hockey coach at Duke University, and for nine years in various capacities at the University of Regina, including interim athletic director for a year and a half.
His family relocated to Kamloops in 2016 --- his wife is a professor at TRU.
Since returning to the place of his birth, Atkinson has been the associate director of sport for Canada West.
Now he's the Athletic Director at TRU.
"Really for me it's a dream opportunity", says Atkinson.
A dream opportunity, but one that comes with many challenges. Atkinson points to a gap in university sport, where some programs have increased the competitive gap, particularly at larger institutions.
Says Atkinson, "Our teams here are keeping up, but if we don't look at new sources of funding, allocating existing funds perhaps differently, then there could be a greater gap -- that will be a priority."
During his time at Regina Atkinson saw success with some of the programs, others not so much, that they had to put more work into. He sees a similar situation at TRU.
"You certainly look at what John Antulov did with the men's soccer program this year (USports bronze medalists)--and what Pat (Hennelly) did with men's volleyball in 2008 (CIS bronze medalists), so we know we can win here ---- we know we can recruit some amazing athletes. We just have to find a way to do that year after year --- how are we going to get these teams into the playoffs each year and in a position to compete for conference championships and utimately represent us at nationals."
Curtis Atkinson isn't coming into the job with blinders on. Even at a distance, while in Regina for nine years and then the last year and a half in Kamloops with Canada West, he's seen the ups and downs of some of the programs here --- and is aware that there will come a time when some tough decisions have to be made.
Says Atkinson "I don't think there will be quick changes, I think this is going to take some time. That's often the case in university sport in Canada when there's a turnover like this. Accountability is important.
There's a lot of pressure on coaches to compete at this level, and produce results. But there won't be any quick changes. I want to really do a full evaluation of the programs, meet the people, learn their strengths, weaknesses, and how we can support them better --- that will be the focus on finding a way to support them at this point."
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