Hidden Huskies: Behind the scenes of Huskies Athletics

By in Features/Sports & Health

Huskies Athletics is a major part of the University of Saskatchewan community. While many of us are familiar with our student athletes and the fantastic work they do on the court, ice, field or track, the U of S is home to many people who work hard behind the scenes. From coaches to administrative staff to announcers, each person has an important role to play. Read on to meet some of the “Hidden Huskies” that work to help our student athletes towards success.

Mark Dodds

Head coach for women’s volleyballsports-feature-mark-dodds-jeremy-britz_1

How did you end up in this position?

I played here at the U of S, and then I went off and played with the national team and then professionally and then I came back — I got injured and so I came back and started coaching with the men’s team actually. I was an assistant coach with the men’s team for four years and I was finishing my degree at the same time. I finished my degree and the women’s position became open, so I applied for it and I was fortunate enough to get it.

What does a typical day in your job look like?

In season, we’re training Monday to Thursday and then playing Friday and Saturday. So that Monday to Thursday, we do weights on Monday and Wednesday mornings. We have individual practices [and] smaller group practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, including our evening practices. So for me, [during] my typical days, I’m at weights with the team. They’re getting up at 7 a.m., so if I’m asking them to do that I figured I’d get up and do it as well. Then throughout the day for me, I’m preparing and watching video and planning for the team that we’re going to play against, as well as planning practices and preparing to train the team for the week ahead. There isn’t really a typical day. There’s a lot of different things that come up and are part of the day.

Are there parts of your job our readers might be surprised to know?

The recruiting part — I don’t think people understand how much time is put into that aspect of it. My email generally, on average, [receives] three or four emails per week with high school athletes contacting me who would to potentially like to come to the U of S. On top of that, there’s the athletes I’m pursuing and looking at and trying to figure out if they’d be a good fit for our program. So the recruiting side of it — making connections, talking to coaches and all those things happen randomly but very often.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love being in the gym every day and working with athletes that are driven and motivated to be the best that they can be. So to try and help them reach their goals and to follow them through that process is for sure the best part of the job, and the most rewarding part is to work with those athletes and get them where they want to go.

What are some of the challenges that come with your job?

So there’s always the financial side it, you know, trying to raise money. These student athletes are coming here and putting in a lot of time and effort into our program and we want to try and reward them for that with some scholarship dollars, and part of post-secondary athletics is the scholarship side of it.

Why should students care about Huskie Athletics?

I think it can be a big part of bringing the university community together and kind of rallying around the Huskies and being a U of S Huskie, even if you’re not a student athlete. My general take on the world is that people enjoy being part of something and I think you look south of the border, and you see that the women’s college volleyball national final last year was played in front of 18,000 fans. Basketball we see March Madness … college football … in my mind, it’s essentially people joining together and being part of something that’s bigger than themselves.

What impact do you hope to leave on the players you work with?

What I try to pass down, or try to pass on, to these student athletes is work ethic and discipline and all those characteristics that help them be successful outside of university and throughout the rest of their lives and careers … and be a great member of our society.

Nicole Betker

Sports information director

What is your role with Huskies Athletics?

The title is sports information director. It’s essentially communications and marketing for all 15 teams within Huskie Athletics. So website, story writing, mediasports-feature-nicole-betker-jeremy-britz relations, social media and the planning and execution of all of that.

What does a typical day in your job look like?

It depends on the day. I would say Monday to Thursday is preparation for the weekend. So we can never look too far ahead — it’s always week-to-week based on who is at home. So Monday through Thursday is creating programs, creating game previews, preparing the statistics for our webcast, making sure all of the technology works, and Friday and Saturday is game day and execution.

Those are my favourite days, because those are the days I actually get to sit and watch the sports and see what our athletes can accomplish.

What is your favourite part of your job?

The athletes. I am here because of the student athletes. I wouldn’t have a job without the student athletes and so they’re the reason why I make the choices I do in marketing, make the choices I do when I write and they’re the best part. Seeing them succeed and seeing them go off and do things outside of athletics.

What are some of the challenges that come with job?

Probably the personnel and resources. So there’s one of me and 15 teams. It would be nice to have multiple of me for all of the sports, which is sort of what you’d see in the NCAA or … in the United States. So that would be the biggest challenge.

What impact do you hope you have on the student athletes?

I hope it helps promote their accomplishments and what they are achieving. I hope that when they leave here they can see their achievements, whether it’s on the ice, or field, or court, are there in some sort of history, [whether it’s] statistics, pictures, all of those kind of things — I hope they look back on it as a fond memory and that I had some role in making it a successful time for them.

What’s your favourite part about being a U of S Huskie?

I’m going to have to go with the obvious: winning! Winning’s a lot of fun, and hosting championships … being in playoffs. This is my favourite time of year. October for when football and soccer are winding down and everybody’s starting, and right now when everyone’s getting into that playoff time.

Robin Ulrich

Interim head coach for women’s hockey

How did you get into hockey?

I started playing when I was nine. I obviously had a bit of experience playing before but not officially – I figured skated … all my friends had played hockey so I sports-feature-robin-ulrich-jeremy-britz_1made the switch over and I’ve been playing since then. Played though minor hockey and then played at the U of S for my university [career of five years].

What does a typical day in your job look like?

[It] depends on the day. So if it’s a weekday, kind of Monday to Thursday, there’s a lot of video. So sitting at my computer a lot, watching videos, breaking it down — our [team’s] video from the weekend before and then looking ahead to who we are playing and breaking down some of their tendencies. [Also] administrative stuff, so lots of emailing with recruits. Just random stuff that comes up throughout the day. What else do I do? Sometimes I’m busy all day and I don’t know what I did, but all of a sudden it’s 4 p.m. and it’s time to go to the rink.

What are the challenges of your job?

Time. Just never feeling like there’s enough time. Some weeks you get really busy and all of a sudden it’s Thursday and you’re hopping on the bus to go somewhere, and then it’s Friday morning and you don’t know where the days went. Sometimes with that crunch time, you don’t have the full opportunity you would like to make sure all of your 24 players on the team are taken care of.

What impact do you hope to leave on the players that you work with?

I just hope that they leave here with a passion for the game, a passion to give back to the community. I think that’s the biggest thing I try to instill in them — that we need to give back to the game as well. That’s why I’m a coach. Hopefully they see that.

You’re in the interesting position of having been both a player for the Huskies and now a coach. What perspectives do you have on that?

It’s cool. I think I’ve come to appreciate … how much work and thought went into everything. When you’re a player, sometimes you see a decision that’s made, and you kind of go, ‘Why would they do that? Why would you change that? Why would you do this or that?’ and you don’t realize that that choice wasn’t a split-second decision that was made.

Why should students at the U of S care about Huskies Athletics? Why is it an important part of the university community?

I think that whatever your opinion on athletics is, we are kind of the face of the university. There’s 15 teams on campus and every weekend, you have between three to four to six teams travelling somewhere else in the country, and we’re kind of the people that represent the university and I think overall, Huskie athletes do a very good job of that.

What’s your favourite part about being a U of S Huskie?

My favourite part is just that feeling of community. We have our own team here and our own family and we’re very tight and close-knit but also like I said, with the 15 other teams, it’s a feeling of a bigger family … so that’s a very cool experience.

Emily Klatt / Sports & Health Editor

Photos: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor