The past year has seen a lot of changes for Mohawk's athletics program.
No OCAA season, no in-person training and very minimal in-person learning… the 2020-2021 academic year has been different and difficult for many student-athletes.
Despite the challenges and changes the past year has brought to the college community, the Mountaineers program has used the break in action to propel itself into a new and exciting era of Mohawk Athletics and Recreation.
The Mountaineers have rolled out several exciting items over the past eight months to help the Mountaineers establish themselves among the elite programs across the province.
In that time, Mohawk Athletics have created a brand-new website, a partnership with Under Armour, a podcast, a virtual Mountaineers apparel shop and several student-athlete initiatives including the Mountaineer Athlete Ambassadors (MAA), Mountaineer Student-Athlete Leadership Program (MSALP) and the rollout of TeamSynced, an athlete engagement platform.
"The pandemic provided the opportunity for us to critically evaluate our student-athlete experience. We articulated a vision of high-performance, framed by the pillars of podium relevance, academic excellence and community impact," says Mohawk's Athletic Director, Matt Ferreira. "The next step was to begin to align our athlete experience with this high-performance vision. The steps we've taken will create the building blocks for sustained future success."
First, the Mountaineers needed a website to help showcase this new era. That came through a partnership with PrestoSports, one of North America's leaders in digital sports platforms.
The website was launched on February 1.
Soon after, the Mountaineers announced a partnership with Under Armour that will see all Mohawk athletes' exclusively wearing Under Armour uniforms and jerseys.
Player packages and organizational gear will also transition exclusively to UA. Mountaineer apparel is also available to the general public, with the launch of the Mountaineers online shop by Quality Sports Ltd.
"To have a partnership with such a big company like Under Armour means a lot to us athletes and it shows how far this athletics program has come already, and this partnership will help us go even further," says Anthony Beijes, a second-year men's volleyball player. "Having a partnership like this is a big part in our mission to becoming one of the best post-secondary athletics programs in Canada. I am excited for the new opportunities this will bring for Mohawk, and the high-quality products and apparel that Under Armour has to offer."
In February the Mountaineers continued to establish themselves in the digital world with the release of The Mohawk Mountaineers Podcast, with the first episode focused on Black History Month, featuring Mountaineers alumni- Careena and Carissa Browne (Women's Basketball/Rugby) and Aminu Bello (Men's Basketball). In the following episodes, the Mountaineers covered International Women's Day and highlighted the Mountaineer experience with four graduating athletes.
Another exciting piece of the puzzle to keep student-athletes engaged this past year was the MSALP which had 12 speakers engage in conversation with athletes through the Education Series and Speaker Series. The Speaker Series focused on having student-athletes engage with prominent figures in sport and life including successful Mountaineer Alumni, Manny Campbell and Chris Spack. The Education Series focused on equipping student-athletes with tools that assist in navigating important societal issues.
Epiphane Ahouo says the MSALP was great for education purposes, but also to help bring all the athletes together across the Mountaineers program.
"I learned a lot from each and every speaker and the goal is to use that information to better myself and the people around me," says Ahouo. "In addition, I just loved the idea of athletes from different sports program coming together and sharing opinions, bonding and learning from each other. It felt like one big family and I hope this unity can bring forth success across all sports."
The Mountaineers also named seven student-athletes this month that will form the first MAA. The sole purpose of the MAA is to advocate for the student population in order to enhance the greater Mountaineer experience at Mohawk College and in the community.
With the 2021-2022 OCAA season looming, the Mountaineers look forward to displaying all the new features the program has to offer. The department has welcomed several new head coaches which has led to an incredibly exciting recruiting class for the upcoming season.
The new crop of head coaches includes Paul Giannini (Women's Soccer), Jordan Brown (Men's Soccer), Hali Burns (Women's Basketball), Brad McClure (Men's Volleyball), Erin Forman and Logan White (Women's Softball) and Alex Paris (Men's Rugby) who claimed three OCAA gold medals in his first stint with the Men's Rugby program.
There's a buzz in the air as the department continues to prepare for a return in the fall while continuing the transition to a culture of high-performance athletics.
They are leaving the past year behind them, looking forward to a better year.
By Cam Black-Araujo
This was originally posted in the Spring 2021 online InTouch magazine.