The recreation and athletics director still adjusting in his new role
When Patrick Boivin was hired as Concordia University’s Recreation and Athletics director, he knew he was undertaking a major endeavour in rebuilding the school’s athletic department. A lack of success on the field and the lack of facilities and resources off of it have resulted in a sort of “lull” in the school’s storied sports history. Boivin has used his first year on the job to assess all his teams and administrative structures. While only a few major changes have been implemented, Boivin has begun to slowly put his mark on the Stingers brand.
“I think it’s gone well,” said Boivin. “I think coming into any new job we are expected to make changes, there needs to be a period of inputting and there needs to be a period of taking-in not just what’s going on in general, but taking-in what’s good here, since not everything needs to be changed. I think overall things have been good so far, it’s not like I’ve been able to effect any real change so far on the field or on the ice – when I came in everything was done, recruiting was done – but luckily enough we’ve been able to start making some changes in football, where I saw an opportunity to make a change while keeping it in the long term perspective.”
Boivin believes the recreational side of Concordia is already in good hands, which is one less thing to worry about for him.
“The recreational side of things is really well off, the programming is well off…the facilities are what they are,” Boivin said. “We’re limited in the size, and the time that we have, and balancing anything that’s varsity and recreational, but Le Gym downtown is at capacity, if not overflowing, so there’s only so much you can do. As long as you keep improving, step-by-step, whether it’s in the offerings that you have or general service. The general load has been on the inner workings of the department, especially in relation to the varsity teams.”
One of the main things Boivin emphasized was the program’s inability to get the most out of the new PERFORM Centre. The impressive athletic complex is in reality only being used as office space by the school’s athletics program. Since the PERFORM Centre is a research center first and foremost, anything done with the resources available must be done for research purposes, whereas the athletes would mostly need it for clinical reasons, such as treating and rehabilitating injuries. Boivin hopes that the school and the PERFORM Centre can ultimately come together and create a working synergy that benefits both sides.
All of the initial administrative changes made up to this point are just that – initial phases. There is still much more work to be done.
Boivin understands the plight of the student athlete in terms of balancing school, sport and life. His vision includes adding more study hall hours for athletes that work conveniently in their schedules, along with more specific academic counselling and advising that will be tailored to the busy student-athlete lifestyle, all things that Boivin says are disassociated with the games the athletes are playing on the weekend.
In terms of real change, Boivin believes the most important change comes in the form of changing the overall culture of Stingers’ sports.
“The biggest change for me personally is the culture change going on,” said Boivin. “I think we need to accept the infrastructure and financial reality that we are in. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to get better, we just need to accept where we are now and not continue to push on comparisons to other schools. Other schools have decided to put a priority on sports well before we have, in some cases 20 years before we did. I look back to [Université Laval], they’ve been at it since 1996. Being here now and saying ‘oh, look at [Université Laval], compared to them we haven’t done anything in the past couple of years is not fair. I’m bringing it back to football for example but it could be said of other sports too.”
Boivin also said that demographics have a lot to do with why Laval is so competitive year in and year out.
“We’re in Montreal, pretty big population taking into account the island and surrounding areas, but there are 50,000 students at Université de Montreal, give or take 46,000 here, about 35,000-40,000 at McGill, and UQAM [Université du Québec à Montréal] has, I would assume, about the same as McGill,” he said. “So you have four schools that account for over 150,000 students, so we’re all reaching out to the same Montreal audience. [Université Laval] has the whole of Quebec City to themselves.”
Despite the challenges he’s faced in trying to rebuild the school’s ‘Stinger Pride’, Boivin has pointed out a few moments that have been uplifting and important in the program’s growth and development.
“We had some good sporting moments; the women’s rugby team going 7-0 was big,” said Boivin. “Unfortunately they [lost] to McGill in the finals but they had a great season. It’s not often [that we] see teams dominating the way they did. So there are some bright lights already within our program that we want to continue to support and bring them to that next level. But there are different levels of progression for each team. For the football team, them going 0-8, it’s not as difficult to progress from that. At 7-0, with the rugby team, you need to find a way to make them progress the year after.”
Boivin highlighted the hiring of football head coach Mickey Donovan as the program’s biggest moment during his tenure. Being able to bring in a coach whose work ethic and energy will breathe life into a team that has lacked it over the past several years was big, according to Boivin. He is of the mind that Donovan is a “superstar in the making” amongst Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) head coaches, not to mention the fact that Donovan is a young, innovative players coach and a Concordia alumnus who bleeds maroon and gold, having been a Stinger himself; a man who accepted the job because he cares deeply about the school, the program, and its athletes.
Now that the first year has come and gone, Boivin has pinpointed what needs to be done going forward and he knows that in order to achieve his goals for the program, he’ll need the support of the entire Concordia community.
“Now the final thing is combining the communications, marketing efforts and bringing people to the games and creating a strong interest in what we’re doing, to get them involved and engaged,” he said. “Yes, it’s about getting people to games, to some degree, but it’s also about people getting engaged [in the Stinger teams]. It’s something that’s becoming harder and harder to do in today’s world just because there are so many more options out there, because everything is more accessible, more timely with the touch of a smartphone. So I think we have a big job in trying to find a way to engage people, and you can be a casual fan and follow our success by coming to watch one game, but at least being interested in what’s going on.”
If there’s one thing Boivin wants to work on the most, it’s bringing more Concordians, whether it’s students, staff or alumni, to watch more Stingers’ games. Boivin said he learned a lot about how to create an entertaining game during his decade long tenure working with the Montreal Canadiens.
“It’s one thing to go to the Bell Centre and be entertained, it’s another thing to come here and be entertained, but a lot that can be done to make the event and the game fun and attractive to students, alumni, and families in the community around here, so that’s one of the big things we’ll be working on too,” Boivin said. “After that there’s a snowball effect, because your teams are being successful, people are talking about it, and it starts to roll.”