Athletics and recreation will be losing an important piece of their off-field puzzle when Christine Stapleton, the associate director for varsity athletics, leaves for the University of Calgary Dinos at the end of the month. Stapleton will be taking on the position of the Dinos’ director of athletics starting Oct. 1.</p>
“She is exactly what we were looking for. She has experience from the ground up, from being a student to being a coach to being an administrator and that experience often makes people very successful if they are moved into an administration role,” said Kurt Kinnear, senior director in the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “She is very passionate about athletics — that came out in her interviews.”
Stapleton came to UW in June 2009 from Canada Basketball, where she was the women’s head coach of the National Elite Development Academy. She described her move to UW as very exciting: “it was a big step but very beneficial.”
“I was a national team coach with Canada Basketball prior to my jump into post-secondary athletic department administration so this was a very good opportunity. I enjoyed working with Bob Copeland, who was the director at the time,” said Stapleton. “From a strong coaching background, both as a university coach and a national team coach, to transfer those skills of high performance transformational leadership to an institution — that was the step from coaching into administration. Now I’m not going back to coaching — I am taking a step ahead in the administrative side.”
Looking back at her six years at UW, Stapleton does not recall many low points during her tenure.
“There’s been very few. The fact that I’ve had to sit and think about it so much shows you that I’ve loved my time here. Obviously there were some challenges with our football team in 2010, but I don’t even dwell on that because of the success of the young men that have come through that and where they are in their life, as well as the educational component that that brought,” said Stapleton.
On the other hand, her highlights of the job were too many to list.
“Highlights were the everyday interactions with the students — the student athletes. We’ve had some national and international success individually and as teams. Any time you have that athletic success on the regional and national level and some of our athletes go on and compete and represent Canada — we take great pride in that,” said Stapleton. “I think the success of the academic all-Canadians and the fact that one in three student athletes here on campus are holding down at least an 80 per cent [average] while competing — that’s unparalleled in Canada. I think that is a success that we have.”
As Stapleton prepares to leave UW, she feels confident that she is leaving a strong program behind, one poised for success.
“We still continue to attract, retain, and graduate outstanding students. Without question the core business of the department is and will always be serving student athletes. The students that I have enjoyed working with from the first day to the last day are world-class,” said Stapleton.
“There have been some significant gains made in the stability of the program from where it was when I started to where it is right now. I think there’s a lot of reasons why it’s more stable — a lot of it has to do with leadership.”
The leadership she is referring to includes Roly Webster, director of athletic and recreation, as well as coaches and support staff.
“There is a real rallying behind him [Webster] and I am very excited and very pleased to be leaving the department, I believe, in a better place than it was when it started.”
Webster, who arrived a year ago, noticed Stapleton’s leadership from the get-go. “As soon as I got here you could see that she was naturally the leader amongst everyone,” said Webster. “I’ll miss her. I think we have a great relationship but I am really excited for her. I think it is a great fit.”
She will be the first female athletic director at the University of Calgary, something Kinnear believes will be beneficial. “Any different or unique perspective can provide benefit to the institution. Especially if they care about its cause.”
For her part, Stapleton is excited to return to Western Canada.
“I spent 10 years in Canada West — the regional association that I am heading to — as a basketball coach at the University of Regina. It is interesting; some of the emails and notes that I got from colleagues in Canada West were welcome back or welcome home,” said Stapleton. “I am excited about the opportunity to get back to a different regional association.”
While the Warriors are sad to see her go, the Dinos are excited to welcome her to Calgary.
“She is very passionate about what she does — we are really excited to have her,” said Kinnear. “I feel like we stole a great individual from a great program and hopefully it will make ours even better too.”