How Laurier’s department of athletics is keeping fans engaged through their innovation

Photo by Alyssa Di Sabatino

With university sports having been out of sight since last March, Laurier’s department of athletics and recreation has been making sure Golden Hawk sports have not been out of mind. 

With their social media outreach, creative programming and innovation, the department has worked hard this year to keep Golden Hawk fans engaged, even though there have not been any games played. 

“We are not business as usual. What we are doing right now is two things: the first is creating more options than ever before for our programming, and, most importantly, we are being innovative,” Laurier Athletic’s director of business operations KP Anand said. 

Laurier has primarily focused on their social media accounts as a way to connect with the community and keep fans informed about news surrounding the varsity teams. 

Their innovation has shined through the varsity team accounts as well as the main Golden Hawks account as they have posted trivia, historical rewinds and have embarked on giveaways. 

The entire homecoming celebration, one of the bigger days on the university sports calendar was conducted on Laurier’s social media channels, as was the Hall of Fame and end of season awards following last year. 

“Social media has been a big part of accomplishing our goals. It’s been a big focus for us to be able to share our messages and connect with the students,” director of communications Jamie Howieson said. 

Laurier’s varsity social media pages, which are mainly run by student-athletes, also embarked on several online campaigns this year. Laurier’s men’s rugby and hockey teams ran a “Movember” campaign, raising money and spreading awareness for men’s health, while the football and soccer teams battled with the University of Waterloo to increase participation in their respective blood donation drives.

On the recreational side of things, Laurier has done a great job with its offerings to students. Manager of recreation and wellness Sarah Broderick is pleased with the engagement during the first term. 

“The department has been working hard for the athletes to keep them training and in particular connecting virtually,” Broderick said. 

She mentioned the sense of a student community and how hard it has been for many student-athletes to connect with others this year. One of the programs that Broderick mentioned is Laurier’s dance community. 

“We have a thriving dance community within our recreation programs, and we have worked really hard to provide opportunities to keep those connected through group-exercises, dance and fitness activities,” she said. 

The sports cancellation impacted first and fourth-year student-athletes the most as many students lost their final year of play as a result of graduation and incoming rookies have not been able to properly interact with their teammates. 

“It was important for us to honour and recognize those senior graduating athletes who, for many of them, have played their last game for Laurier and did not even know it,” Howieson said.

Laurier’s athletic website has worked incredibly hard this year to produce features showcasing many of the great student-athletes that wear the purple and gold. Tyra Forde, who writes many of the features, has focused on the stories of incoming Laurier athletes and the accomplishments of outgoing Golden Hawks. 

“The features have spotlighted outstanding examples of what Laurier student-athletes have accomplished during their time here,” Howieson said. 

In addition to the social media outreach and programs that have been offered, Laurier also launched an eSports league last September. 

“Innovation has been most important in this environment. That is where programs such as eSports were born from,” Anand said. 

Anand has been impressed with the engagement that eSports received in the first term and the offering will be extended in the winter with a larger variety of games to choose from. Another program that has helped Laurier students and sports fans engaged with one another. 

Although OUA sports will not return until the fall at the earliest, the department at Laurier is prepared for an eventual return to play and have a number of scenarios already planned out in accordance with the Ontario Covid-19 framework. 

“We have drawn up numerous scenarios as a team and we are prepared,” Anand said. “We have plans for each colour in the provincial framework. When we are clear to go, we are ready to go,” he added. 

With collaboration and innovation, Laurier’s department of athletics has done a great job in keeping Golden Hawk sports as relevant as possible. While a return to play, seemingly gets closer to reality, the department is motivated by the adjustments made this year and looks forward to maintaining the current offerings. 

“We wanted to be mindful of what we were offering to students and what students want, because at the end of the day it’s about student life and that’s what we wanted to focus on,” Anand said.

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