Allan named Brock’s interim athletic director
Past experiences as a varsity athlete will be crucial in Emily Allan’s new role as the interim director of Brock Sports.
“It’s extremely valuable because you understand what it takes to be a competitive athlete and the rigours of not just physical training but the rigours of being dedicated to your academics and managing your time effectively so that you can succeed in both,” the 39-year-old Pelham resident said. “If someone has been an athlete, our athletes find them more relatable and (feel) you understand their situation.”
Allan, who attended school in St. Catharines, Thorold and Niagara Falls and graduated from A.N. Myer, competed for two seasons on the Brock cross country team and was the school’s Runner of the Year in 2004-05.
“When I was a student-athlete, I had a full course load, I worked a part-time job on campus in the cage and I had a roommate who didn’t do any of that and still managed to not manage time very well,” she said. “You become exceptional at those things because you don’t have time for anything else and your day is very regimented.”
On Dec. 9., it was announced that Allan’s position as associate director would change to interim director.
“As many of you well-know, in the absence of a Director of Brock Sports, Emily has stepped in to provide invaluable leadership for our coaches, staff and student varsity athletes,” read a letter from Anna Lathrop, Brock’s vice provost and associate voce-president students. “During the COVID 19 pandemic, she has set and maintained the COVID direction for Brock Sports within Brock’s COVID 19 parameters. She also represents Brock Sports at the OUA and USPORTS levels.”
Alan was obviously pleased with the announcement.
“I have been doing the role for almost two years now but it feels good to be recognized for that work.”
She describes her leadership style as collaborative.
“Especially being newer in the role, that’s the way I need to be in order to make sure I’m understanding and taking into account all angles,” she said. “I always want to make sure that there is nothing that I am missing; a different side of the story or a different opinion that I haven’t considered.”
She likes to lead by example.
“I work hard, I play hard, I do everything to the best of my ability and I alway give 100 per cent.”
The letter from Lathrop to the Brock Sport community stated the search for a new director of Brock Sports was regrettably on pause due to the current operating climate of the university.
“I am confident that this position will be approved and that we will resume this search in the summer of 2021,” Lathrop wrote.
Whether she sees herself as the caretaker for the next director or auditioning for the role herself, Allan will try and make good decisions and implement positive programming for Brock Sports that allows the organization to move forward in the right direction.
“Regardless of whether I am the associate director, the director, I am trying to improve things,” she said. “The world is changing quite quickly and I am trying really hard to implement programs and structure and change to make sure we are being the most inclusive and diverse as we can possibly be.”
Even without the arrival of COVID-19 pandemic, university sport is facing a number of challenges.
“People compare us to the NCAA where there is all the money in the world and before, athletics program across the country used to be more lucrative,” she said. “There used to be more money, there used to be bells and whistles and all the extras. As financial situations across the country change, it gets harder and harder for us to prove our relevance and maintain that level of funding that we need to succeed and ensure that our athletes are having the best experience possible.”
The next challenge for universities is to fund-raise, find donors and sponsorships to offset the declines in government funding.
“Universities obviously have a priority to fund academic programs first and then all the extras,” Allan said. “It’s proving, showing and maintaining our relevance and then working hard to make sure we can still provide all the sports that we want to provide to our student-athletes.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a whole bunch of different challenges.
“Right now, the biggest challenge is providing something for our student-athletes that helps them maintain a sense of normalcy,” she said. “The second half of that challenge is how do we move forward with sport, and it’s not just university sports, given the financial constraints that will be the result of COVID.”
The university is trying hard to make sure it maintains programming for its athletes through the pandemic whether is it virtual or actual and coaches are being diligent with checking up on their athletes, including hosting team meetings and social time on virtual platforms.
Among the Brock teams that have returned to actual practices are the men’s and women’s hockey, basketball, volleyball, curling and swimming squads. The rugby and wrestling teams are working on strength and conditioning and Allan is working on approvals to have the squash and baseball teams return to training in the new year.
The obvious challenge is to keep athletes training hard even though there are no competitions on the near or not so near horizon.
“That is the No. 1 thing I am hearing from a lot of coaches,” Allan said. “While our student-athletes have access to a lot more programming than a normal student, it’s still not the same and they are struggling with motivation and drive. It’s a matter of getting more creative, whether it’s an intrasquad competition or you swap out training for team building or more fun stuff that is not sports related.”
Allan, who was a national triathlon medalist and a two-time competitor at the world championships, started working at Brock in 2007 serving as a project coordinator in Community Health Sciences. She ran a research study, funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation, that looked at hypertension in youth and social determinants of hypertension. In 2012, she became the Experiential Education Coordinator in the Department of Sport Management and held that role until becoming an associate director in August 2018.
She became head coach of Brock’s cross country teams in 2011 and obtained a masters degree in education from Brock in 2013.