New Vikes initiatives aimed at supporting high-performance athletes

The University of Victoria is unveiling several initiatives that build on the Vikes' rich athletic tradition and its ongoing and deep commitment to providing a supportive high-performance environment for student athletes.

The program changes and additions aim to affirm, educate and support a culture of excellence for UVic athletics and provide improved resources for students and coaches. In addition to responding to the needs of the university for enhanced supports and leadership capacity, the initiatives also reflect a growing change across Canada to better support students pursuing both athletic and academic distinction.

These important changes to UVic's varsity program are, in part, in response to recent internal processes at UVic and investigations at other institutions across Canada. As part of the work, UVic and Athletics and Recreational Services have been reviewing current practices and policies at the university as well as researching policies, supports and best practices across the country. This research has included professional codes for coaches, student-athlete handbooks and educational opportunities.

A professional code for coaches, a student-athlete leadership council and improvements to the complaint process for varsity athletes are among the new initiatives. The changes will be supported by a new Vikes leadership position related to high-performance athletics designed to help the university continue to meet the evolving complexities of the student-athlete experience. Additionally, a student outreach and support coordinator position dedicated to varsity athletes has been established.

Led by Clint Hamilton, director of Vikes athletics and recreation, the additional programs and organizational changes are being developed through a consultative process and will be guided by an advisory board with external representation from both provincial and federal sport organizations.

More details about the advisory board and opportunities for the public to provide input on several of the initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks. The goal is to have the initiatives in place for the 2020/21 varsity season.

"The Vikes are continuously looking for ways to strengthen our programs, and we are committed to learning and leading with respect to our varsity program," says Hamilton. "These important investments in resources, supports and leadership positions will better support our program and cultural goals of allowing athletes and coaches to aspire to the highest levels of national and international sport standards in a safe environment."

Specific initiatives include:

Professional code for coaches

UVic is developing a professional code for coaches—outlining a coach’s expectations and accountabilities—that corresponds with the Canadian sport environment and UVic’s collective agreements, employee standards and policies. Following extensive background research in the fall, a draft document is being prepared this month. Campus-wide consultation with stakeholders will take place in February, with implementation anticipated to begin for the commencement of the 2020/21 varsity season.

Varsity-athlete resources and leadership

UVic will create tools and resources to better define the varsity performance sport experience and expectations for student athletes. This initiative will outline the important educational and support mechanisms in place for all of UVic’s high-performing athletes. The program will be reviewed by students, staff and coaches and will ultimately be integrated into an annual online orientation program for students starting with the 2020/21 varsity season.

UVic has created a student-athlete advisory committee comprised of senior varsity athletes. This important new committee will provide advice to Vikes leadership on advancing the culture of excellence associated with varsity athletics and the student-athlete experience. Examples of items that will be brought to this council include student-athlete support structures, the Student Athlete Handbook, and the Student Athlete Educational Program.

A new senior leadership position in Vikes Athletics and Recreation is being developed to provide oversight and accountability of the varsity high-performance sport program at UVic, with a clear focus on safe sport and the specific needs of high-performance athletes. Following extensive research on similar positions across the country, the first priority for the new leader will be the review of how best to ensure accountability for sport compliance, in alignment with the defined culture of excellence for UVic varsity athletics, varsity-student supports policies and programs. Recruitment is anticipated in spring 2020.

A new Student Outreach and Support Coordinator position has been created in the Office of Student Life. The coordinator will enhance the success and retention of student athletes by providing advice and options related to emotional, social, behavioral and other non-academic concerns. In collaboration with Vikes staff—including coaches, support staff and department leadership—and other key stakeholders across the university, the coordinator will work to develop and implement staff and varsity student-athlete education and training programs. Hiring is now underway.

Coaching support, education and development

Several additional initiatives—including workshops, orientation and onboarding materials, and professional development opportunities—are being developed to better support varsity coaches. These investments in UVic's varsity coaches will help the university to advance a high-level performance sport culture in an environment that is healthy and challenging and also free of bullying, discrimination, harassment and sexualized violence. The Office of Student Life, Equity and Human Rights, and external sport organizations such as U SPORTS and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport will provide feedback and support on these initiatives.

Student complaint process

Vikes will work closely with university partners to apply learnings from recent internal processes. This will include clarifying processes and expectations, as well as training staff on how to receive a disclosure or complaint and when to take action or make referrals.


In this story

Keywords: vikes, athletics, administrative, staff, student life

People: Clint Hamilton

Publication: The Ring

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