Assiniboine Community College’s varsity teams were winless during the fall semester of Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference play, but for athletics manager Beth Clark, keeping everyone in action for the second semester will be a victory in itself.
All four of the Cougar MCAC teams — men’s and women’s volleyball and basketball — failed to finish their seasons in 2012-13, dropping out due to player shortages.
Basketball wasn’t brought back this season, but the ACC volleyball teams, both with 0-10 records, will resume their seasons on Jan. 18 when they visit Red River College. The newly minted ACC soccer teams were also winless this season, but will try to change that this semester as they compete in MCAC tournament play in futsal, a variation on indoor soccer, played on a basketball court with no boards and a smaller ball than regulation soccer.
Clark, who filled a newly created position at ACC in the fall, said for now the focus is on strengthening the athletic programs, which she said offers some different challenges than she faced while playing volleyball at the University of Regina due to the demands of college classroom schedules.
"A lot more kids are in class from eight to four every day and so there’s a few different challenges, but basically I’m out there recruiting for next year and I’m hoping that even in this next semester that we’ll have a few other students that have enrolled that will be able to join some of our teams and help build the program," she said. "It’s baby steps. We’re looking to every year build it a little bit stronger and eventually build that brand and that name and that reputation."
Another challenge the Cougars are working to overcome is high athlete turnover. While many of their conference rivals offer full four-year degrees, the bulk of ACC’s courses are much shorter than that, necessitating a constant focus on recruiting and giving their current athletes the support they need to stay involved.
"In the college league, at least at ACC, most of our programs are eight weeks to maybe two years, so the turnover of athletes is, I would say, 80 per cent a year at least," she said. "It’s quite high, so really every year is a building year, it seems like. So we need to start small and get the little wins and eventually create that reputation so that athletes are actually coming to ACC for the school first, but also wanting to participate in athletics."
The college also has a women’s club hockey team that plays a limited schedule in the Manitoba Junior Women’s Hockey League, and Clark said ACC has submitted a bid to host the provincial senior women’s championship at the Keystone Centre this season.
"We don’t have details on that, but we hope to announce details with Hockey Manitoba, hopefully in (January)," she said. "We’ve put in a bid and we hope to have good news in the future."