Brock Sports’ new leader fast-tracking AD hiring
Anna Lathrop, Brock’s vice-provost and associate vice-president, is hoping to have a new athletic director in place in the next month or so. BROCK UNIVERSITY PHOTO
Brock’s first attempt at replacing departed athletic director Neil Lumsden started in May 2019.
That attempt was delayed by administrative changes at Brock but now the St. Catharines university is moving at hyper speed to fill the position. It has been vacant since Lumsden announced his retirement in January 2019.
The job was posted Sept. 1 and there are about three weeks left for interested parties to apply for the position.
“We will look at our long, long list, then whittle that down,” said Anna Lathrop, Brock’s vice-provost and associate vice-president students. “It is hard for me to judge, but what I would say is that in a month’s time, I would love to have someone in place.”
In 2020, Lathrop was at the centre of those previously mentioned administrative changes and now oversees the units of Student Life and Community Experience, Student Wellness and Accessibility, Student Success Centre, Residence Life, Recreation and Youth Programs and Brock Sports.
The former Brock varsity athlete, who was a member of the fencing team in the 1970s, feels a sense of urgency in having the position filled.
“I am very cognizant of our two amazing associate directors (Emily Allan and Steve Lidstone). They have been carrying a big responsibility and quite frankly I am new to this portfolio,” she said. “I was a varsity athlete but that doesn’t mean I know the ins and outs of all the current challenges facing Ontario university sports.
“I am aware that there are things for me to learn as well and that’s why I want a very strong director in place as soon as possible.”
The current state of the world hasn’t lessened her desire for a quick resolution to the hiring process.
“Even though we are in COVID-19 and we are seeing that our competitive season didn’t happen and we are keeping our fingers crossed for winter, I still think it is very essential to get this position in place and then begin to work with our coaches and our athletes even if it is virtually,” Lathrop said. “This is a very important time to convey that Brock Sports is an essential part of the university experience and we want to make sure that we have good direction, good leadership and, most importantly, we tie the mission of Brock Sports into the mission of the university’s strategic plan.”
The interview committee will include a coach, a student athlete, senior leads in Brock sports and recreation and a marketing and communications representative
“I recognize that a director of university sport must have some business acumen and also some marketing and communication expertise.”
Lathrop feels the most important attributes of a new AD are: experience working in the college or university sector; a sense of commitment to varsity athletes and coaches and the ability to mentor and support both groups; carrying the principles of equity and inclusion and ensuring all of Brock sports and all its performances are aligned with that; experience as an athlete or a coach; being able to see a broader vision for the university with excellence in performance and how it relates to the university’s mission around recruitment and retention of students ; and, recognizing how the Brock Sports’ mission is imbedded with the university’s mission around curricular and cocurricular opportunities for students.
“I want to welcome them as a new member of the Brock community and encourage them to build affiliations and support across many sectors,” she said. “In the ad, you see that I talk about building connections with our recreation colleagues, building connections with our student health and wellness colleagues and building connections with our marketing and communications colleagues. All of that is important.”
When asked to comment on the incoming director’s biggest challenge, she preferred to view it as an opportunity.
“There are opportunities to build a vision,” she said. “A new director will alway bring a new sense of energy, enthusiasm and the setting of goals.”
The pandemic is obviously a challenge to everyone including the new AD and his or her role will be to encourage the forward momentum of Brock’s athletes.
“We are all disappointed that we are not into a ‘normal’ season moving into the fall and the challenge here will be to maintain morale and support virtually, and also plan for the return of the competitive season.”
The way in which Brock Sports had dealt with the COVID pandemic will help the institution moving forward.
“All of this has caused us to rethink our systems, our outreach and our support for students,” Lathrop said. “When we get past COVID, we will probably have a very deep toolbox of virtual connections and strategies that we will want to continue. There are lessons here and we can take forward good practices as we move forward.”
She feels the AD job at Brock is an appealing position.
“First and foremost, Brock is an amazing place to work, I have been here for more than 30 years, the sense of community here is very deep and our commitment to students is exemplar, Lathrop said. “The coaches are dedicated and we have some major successes and excellence on the sports field. We are going to build on our historic strengths and we want to build in new areas. This is an exciting time to join Brock and it’s an opportunity for a new director to step into a horizon of new possibilities and contribute.”
In Lathrop, the new AD will have a boss who is a firm believer in the importance of varsity sports.
“I was a fencer in the early days and being part of a club team and being part of varsity fencing gave me another level of campus affinity or engagement that I wouldn’t otherwise have had,” she said. “I lived in Fonthill and drove into Brock and it was a very strong community for me. I value and know that our varsity athletes feel that and I want a director who is going to be able to convey that ethic.”
Her late father, D.W. Lathrop, was chair of Brock’s board of trustees between 1969 and 1972.
“In 1972, the senate passed the first degree in physical education and my dad and Arnie Lowenberger worked on getting funds, getting government support to start the academic program and build the building which is now Walker complex,” she said. “In a way, it’s very amazing and rewarding to come back to my roots. I am honoured to have Brock Sports and Brock Recreation as part of my portfolio. It is a nice loop around the early days of history.”
She knows her dad would be thrilled with her new role at Brock.
“The founders of Brock believed in sport and physical activity. They believed that it was a critical part of the university mission. As my dad’s daughter, I am delighted to carry on that mantle,” she said. “It feels good, it feels right and I am really excited about our future.”
Lathop came to Brock in 1989 as a phys-ed lecturer and became chair of the department of physical education and kinesiology and chair of the department of recreation and leisure studies. She served two terms as the associate dean of undergraduate studies in the faculty of applied health sciences and spent one year as the interim dean of the faculty of applied health sciences.
“I have done the gamut,” she said. “I have been up and down the academic and athletic hill and it is exciting times.”