In 2010, the University of Winnipeg added men’s and women’s soccer teams, as well as college basketball teams to the Wesmen athletic program.
This year, it’s added three more teams: men’s and women’s wrestling, and men’s baseball, which means that in just over a year, the number of Wesmen student-athletes has jumped from 56 to well over 100.
Doran Reid, the university’s athletic director, said the aggressive expansion is being done to meet the demands of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport organization (CIS), which told universities across the country they were expected to expand their programs.
“Universities wont be booted out of the league if they don’t do it, but they would lose privileges,” he said. “If we didn’t meet the goal, we would potentially lose any voting privileges.”
Still, Reid believes that the expansion of the teams will benefit both the university and the athletic department.
“It logically makes sense that we grow our programs to give more student-athlete opportunities,” said Reid.
It adds up to more students paying tuition at the university, more Wesmen athletes acting as ambassadors in the community and the opportunity for more U of W students to become Wesmen athletes, Reid said.
But while the expansion has its benefits, problems have already arisen from the program’s quick growth.
Amy Ogidan, the fifth-year captain for the women’s basketball team, says the surge in new athletes has made it difficult to work on her game outside of practices.
“Shooting around in between classes on free courts is now a thing of the past,” she said. “Between university classes, kinesiology, recreation activities such as college intramural, and the court sports use of the gym, there is barely any time to just grab a court and shoot around.”
Jeff Billeck, the university’s head athletic therapist, is also concerned about the speed of the expansion.
“ It logically makes sense that we grow our programs to give more student-athlete opportunities.
Doran Reid, athletic director
Billeck did receive an increase in budget last season, and has again for the 2011-2012 season. But a lack of space, time and therapists will present substantial obstacles for the treatment of athletes at the U of W, he said.
As the only therapist officially in charge of Wesmen athletes, Billeck has had to increase his own hours in order to accommodate the changes.
“I hope the quality hasn’t decreased, but it is a bit of a juggling act and you have to triage some days,” he said.
Ogidan has no complaints about the quality of treatment at U of W, but noted getting immediate treatment for serious injuries can be difficult.
The U of W clinic has only six beds for patients, nine if you include the beds in the hydro room where athletes are taped prior to practices and games; there is simply not enough room for more patients, and there is no money or space to expand at the moment.
Additionally, new teams mean new equipment - and more costs. For example, every team needs a med-kit, which cost between $300 and $400 each.
However, Billeck says there are some positive aspects about the expansion.
For the first time, the U of W has hired an office assistant for the clinic.
Despite concerns about finding space for new team rooms, coach’s offices and athletic therapy, Ogidan says she thinks that the new teams will have a positive effect on the downtown youth community.
“The more athletes, the more role models we have at the U of W for young athletes.”