By John DeCoste
Acadia University ended last week with four of its varsity teams ranked in their respective CIS national Top-10s – which, according to Director of Athletics Kevin Dickie, is an unprecedented number for the Wolfville school.
The CIS Top-10s released Nov. 13 showed the hockey Axemen ranked #2 in the country, up from #3 the previous week. The basketball Axemen were ranked #3 for a second straight week, and the basketball Axewomen held down the sixth spot in their rankings after a #8 showing the previous week.
In the final CIS weekly football ranking of the season, the football Axemen were ranked #9 and have since advanced to the CIS ‘Final Four’.
The rugby Axewomen, despite not having a spot in the national Top-10 at the end of the season, competed at the CIS nationals as AUS finalists and ended up sixth.
The rugby Axewomen did make an appearance in the CIS Top-10 earlier this season, for one week, as did the soccer Axemen, making a total of six Acadia teams that have appeared in CIS Top-10s at least once since the school year began in September.
“It’s the most teams Acadia has ever had in the national Top-10 at the same time,” Dickie said.
Combining that with 79 academic All-Canadians – representing 33.5 per cent of the university’s complement of student-athletes, the top percentage in the CIS – and all our community involvement, “we’re pretty much full steam ahead,” he said.
Acadia has had a number of student-athletes win AUS and CIS Student-Athlete Community Service Awards, most recently women’s soccer player Alana Fairfax of Somerset, who won this year’s CIS award for her sport.
All in all, Dickie suggested, “there’s lots to be proud of at Acadia right now.”
At a school the size of Acadia, he says, “we have to celebrate our accomplishments when they’re there. Our varsity teams went 8-0 this past weekend, with the hockey and men’s and women’s basketball teams all winning twice on the road.”
In terms of university sport, everything runs in cycles, he said, “but that’s only part of it. Your ultimate goal should be to sustain a high level of competition, year after year. It’s not easy, because there are no guarantees.”
At the same time, he said, one thing you can do is to always strive for excellence, whether in athletics, academics or community service.
“There’s really no reason why we shouldn’t excel in all three - and no excuses why we can’t.”
Dickie feels Acadia is riding a bit of a crest right now, “and a big reason for it is our collectiveness. Working together makes it easier to strive for success. It may sound
corny, but it’s true.”
Moreover, this collective effort, which starts with Dickie and his staff, through the coaches and other staff to the student-athletes, is not only infectious, but “no one has needed to buy into it.”
One of the challenges of operating a varsity athletic program at a small school is funding, but Dickie says that doesn’t need to be a stumbling block or deterrent.
“We face the same fiscal challenges here as I faced at UNB,” he said. “Only we’re overcoming it better. It’s all about how those with less can do more.”
Everything is cyclical, he acknowledged, “but when you get on a roll, you need to try and maximize that.”
As for whether Acadia is doing that successfully, he replied, “the success we’re having answers that question. I feel we offer the best undergraduate experience in the country, and you can’t put a price tag on that.”
While there are, and will continue to be, challenges surrounding recruiting, Dickie stressed, “excellent kids will want to be a part of excellence. The biggest thing in recruiting is trying to convince people you’re different. You can’t do that without increased financial resources, making use of alumni and corporate sponsorship.”
Acadia, he feels, has been doing a better job of that in recent years, and he is hopeful it will continue to improve.
“We’ve definitely turned the corner on the bad times.”