“Dalhousie is a world class university and I believe that part of that recognition includes our student athletes,” says Dal alum Judi Rice.
That appreciation for student athletes is the reason that Rice and many others in the Dalhousie community choose to be part of the Black & Gold Club, a group which aims to relieve some of the financial pressure put on varsity athletes by fees and training costs.
“I believe for the total student experience at university it is important to offer opportunities other than just the academic experience,” says Rice, a member of the Black & Gold Club board of directors since 1990 and club president for 10 years.
Making the team, making the grade
Established by a group of former athletes and Dal alumni in 1980, the club now boasts an expanded membership that includes parents, faculty and community sports enthusiasts.
The club originally focused on hosting events that would increase membership by promoting interest in varsity sports.
“The focus of the club has since changed,” explains Rice, “and in discussions with the athletics department our focus is now squarely on, ‘How can we best support these student athletes?’”
For the past few years, the club has been using its resources to sponsor the Tutorial Program, through which every varsity athlete has access to up to 20 hours of free tutoring per academic year.
“Each player comes to a team for different reasons,” says Lois MacGregor, club vice-president of events and membership and associate professor in the School of Health and Human Performance.
The Black & Gold Club recognizes these individual needs and offers both group and one-on-one tutoring services.
The Tutorial Program is part of a larger initiative by Athletics and Recreation Services known as the academic support program (ASP), which offers athletes the resources necessary to maintain good academic standing.
According to the 2011-12 ASP summary report, the Tutorial Program assisted 71 student athletes last year.
Rice explains that, with training, practices and out-of-town games, there is, “a lot of time management pressure on the student athlete.”
She hopes that the Tutorial Program, which is unique to Dalhousie, will help relieve some of this pressure.
Passing on a passion for sport
Rice, a recent recipient of the A.J. Sandy Young award for her contribution to sport, is no stranger to the demands and rewards of varsity athletics. While enrolled at Dalhousie from 1971-75, she played both basketball and field hockey.
“To me, varsity athletics provided that complete experience during my university days,” she says.
Rice later spent a year at Dal as assistant coach for the women’s basketball team and recalls a time before initiatives like the Black & Gold Club had been developed.
“No question, we had very little support at the time and I know just talking with the athletes today how important it is to have that external support. “
The Black & Gold Club also supports the annual athletic banquet and hosts a first-year student athlete reception as well as a graduating student athlete dinner.
Another way in which the club helps ensure the recruitment and success of student athletes is with financial awards.
“Athletics inspire excellence and hard work,” says MacGregor, explaining the need to recognize sport at Dalhousie.
A way to stay in the game
There are three levels of membership for the Black & Gold Club: event, family and donor. Members can choose to direct funds to a specific team including club teams and non-varsity-level groups, as well as to the Tutorial Program.
Membership benefits include entry to home games and Dal hosted Atlantic University Sports events, discounts at the Dalplex and Athletics shop, and subscription to an e-newsletter.
MacGregor, once a member of the women’s volleyball and basketball teams and Dal volleyball coach, now enjoys watching games with other Black & Gold members, who she describes as “people who have been involved over the years who are now supporters of the team.”
“When you go to the games you see each other and chat,” she says.
It’s also about reconnecting with school spirit: “Once a Tiger, always a Tiger,” adds Rice.
Learn more: Black & Gold Club
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