For the past six months, Tom Huisman has been taking steps to fuse together the athletic programs of UBC Okanagan with with other like-minded community programs.
Huisman was named UBC Okanagan’s new athletic director in May of 2018, and noticed an immediate difference in the prevalent sports programs of the Okanagan, compared to other places he’s worked within Ontario and Manitoba.
“I did a lot of research before even applying for the job. And it was everything I anticipated with both the community and the university having incredible foundations for success, and sustained success,” said Huisman.
For starters, Huisman helped implement the Kelowna Community Sport Plan: a goal to incorporate the City of Kelowna with the sporting community, from players to coaches and fans to parents.
“I was pleasantly surprised of the very broad sports community here, with a lot of successful teams, and athletes in the community from the developing areas. The community has a strong base in all of these sports in all the Okanagan.”
It has been a long-time passion for Huisman, who’s spent his entire career working and volunteering within the sporting world. He’s realized that if he can offer that path to other people, especially young people within his community, he’d be gratified.
An athletic director of a university has certain obligations to that university, but Huisman has recognized he can help put them towards benefiting the community that surrounds him, just as UBC Okanagan helped push him past just on-campus work.
“Being relevant in our community helps build a strong fan base. But how can we help each other? By working on developing and creating community partnerships,” said Huisman. “As these partnerships become more successful, that will feed into how successful we are. We want to be a part of the development system the develops young community athletes. I’m convinced it will help.”
‘We have a sincere desire to be a more significant component for the sport and recreation community for Kelowna and the Okanagan,” he said.
UBC Okanagan is a young sporting school compared to others. Their sports programs haven’t all seen success in the talent-filled leagues they are a part of. While the womens’ volleyball team may be one of the best in the country, other programs haven’t been able to hit that threshold.
“I see all of our programs growing and becoming competitive teams in their leagues. We look to continue from sustained success from our other teams to grow and improve, and build a strong foundation.”
Huisman notes the excitement he feels with being at the front of a growing athletic program with amazing student athletes and an involved, passionate community.
“My goal is to get the foundation to grow and become something really special both at the campus and in the community as a whole, and thats how we improve,” Huisman said.
“The sky is the limit and why can’t we hit that?”