Print Edition: April 8, 2015
Steve Tuckwood is joining the UFV Athletics Department as Director of Athletics and Campus Recreation. After graduating from Wilfred Laurier University, Tuckwood worked as a sports editor for the Guelph Tribune, and as director of development and alumni relations with the UBC athletics department.
What brought you to UFV?
The opportunity. My aspiration was always to be an athletic director and this opportunity presented itself, so I applied and thankfully was chosen. I’m here because I really think this program on the varsity side has so many good things going on and needs kind of a push to make it even better. There’s a real opportunity to grow the recreation side here from basically nothing up to something that can be great for all the students. It’s an open slate. From my position, it’s a dream to walk into something like this.
What role do you see the athletics department having in UFV?
Well I think the athletics department can be a few things. If you look at the everyday life of the student, the athletics department should play a role in health and wellness. Especially today, students really don’t take a lot of time to look after themselves, and if we can play a role in ensuring there are activities they want to do that are fun and affordable, and that they feel it’s time well spent when they do make that effort, I think that’s a great role for the department to play. I think on the varsity side, if you can show excellence, it really is a rallying point. If you have teams that are successful and athletes that are successful on the provincial, national, and international stage, it’s only better for the institution to have that notoriety.
What kind of work did you do at UBC?
My last role was director of development and alumni relations for athletics and recreation. I dealt with all of varsity and recreation alumni as far as engagement, with them coming back to campus wanting to be involved with the current program, and out of that, we dealt with all the fundraising for capital projects. We built about $140 million worth of capital projects while I was there and fundraised part of those costs. We worked with donors. The other big piece was working with donors on student financial aid, which is scholarships for student athletes, student rec leaders, that sort of thing. That was my main role.
How are you planning to change the fundraising aspect of the athletics department?
Fundraising is really about relationships, and it’s relationships with people who are close to the program. But it’s also community leaders and people who see the value of the institution in the Fraser Valley. When it comes to relationships, the number-one word in fundraising is trust, and you need to be able to have the donor trust what the institution is doing with his or her donation and that it’s being used well. I think it comes down to building trust between the donor and the institution, and that’s people interacting and ensuring that the donor knows and gets a good report on how their donation impacted the program — specifically, how it impacted the student athlete or the rec leader and what that person is aspiring to do.
UBC has more campus engagement in their athletics. Do you see that as an issue?
I don’t see it as an issue. UBC may have had some more fans, but it also had three times the student population and it didn’t have three times the fans. Outside of a couple sports, mostly football and some basketball, it really struggled, like most other Canadian universities do, for a fan base. It’s always great to play in front of fans and that’s the ultimate goal. We want to build the fan base and get more people out to games, but that takes time. We just need to have a good marketing approach and we need to show great value. I think Canadian university sports, in many places, is extremely undervalued. If you look at the quality of the basketball that goes on here, the quality of the soccer that goes on, most of the community doesn’t even realize until they stumble upon it — but once they come out, they soon realize the calibre of play.
What’s your long-term vision for the athletics department here?
I would love to have a really robust recreation program. I think there is a huge potential here to build recreation and have people participate recreationally and bring the community to our campuses. To me, if you build a really strong recreation program that people want to participate in, then it also lends itself to building the fan base for varsity and other things. Long-term with varsity, I just want our teams to be competitive and I want our athletes to have the best opportunity they can to do well academically, do well athletically, and when they leave UFV, have all the tools to go into the world and either pursue athletics if that’s what they choose to do, or pursue another endeavour.
Anything else you want to add?
The next six months are going to be really interesting, just getting grounded and beginning to grow the program on the recreation side, and really solidify the varsity side as well and provide the leadership that the coaches and the team needs. My goal is to know as many students as possible as I walk around on campus. My university career was fantastic and I want that for as many of the students who have chosen to come to UFV as possible.