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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 2 | Jan. 24, 2002

Partnerships boost athletics

UBC Athletics fosters sports with help from community

by Don Wells staff writer

In the game of funding university sport, UBC is scoring some big points thanks to an increasing number of community partners who want to help the university keep more of Canada's best and brightest student athletes at home.

Martin Zlotnik, a former UBC golf team captain, entrepreneur and community leader, is among those leading various campaigns to preserve and enhance Thunderbird programs.

In the mid-80s, Zlotnik and a group of like-minded alumni founded the Thunderbird Golf Society which has raised enough money to build a sizable and growing endowment fund for scholarships, coaching honoraria and travel for UBC's men's and women's teams.

More recently, Zlotnik convinced the prestigious Shaughnessy Golf Club to serve as their official practice facility. Shaughnessy also provides administrative and coaching support from director of golf, Bruce Murray.

But Zlotnik's crowning achievement has undoubtedly been staging the Millennium Breakfast, an annual event which in just two years has raised more than a million dollars for athletic scholarships.

"We can't stand idly by and watch so many academically qualified student-athletes go to the United States because they don't have the same scholarship opportunities here," says Zlotnik. "Alumni have to get involved and we have to get excited."

But it's not only alumni who have answered the rallying cry of UBC's athletic department.

National, provincial and local sport associations have also joined forces with the university to consolidate resources and facilities.

The most shining example is the partnership involving UBC's swimming program, the Pacific Dolphins Club Program, Swim Canada, Swim BC and the federally funded Pacific Sport National Sport Centre.

The partnership has resulted in UBC becoming home to a swim program that boasts five full-time coaches led by Tom Johnson, a veteran of 25 years on the international circuit.

"Many people don't understand the continuum that is necessary to produce Olympic medal performances," says Johnson.

"This consortium enables us to provide high-performance training at every stage, from young kids right up to the Olympics and combine it with top university education."

Under Johnson and co-coach Randy Bennett, UBC produced nine Olympic swimmers in 2000, almost a full third of Canada's entry at the Sydney games.

Other partnership groups include the recently founded Friends of UBC Baseball, which resurrected a 50-year-old program that folded in the late '70s. The team competes against US colleges and plays home games at Nat Bailey Stadium.

The only program in Canada, it has attracted the attention of major league stars Larry Walker, Jeff Zimmerman and Ryan Dempster, who have made personal pledges and participate in an annual fundraising golf tournament.

In just three years, the T-Birds have produced what many pro scouts have speculated will be a first-round major league draft pick in pitcher Jeff Francis, a third-year Science student.

Foundation 2000 Plus, a Victoria based organization devoted to advancing the sport of rowing across Canada, has partnered with UBC to create the Thunderbird Rowing Centre. By providing instruction for some 600 participants in recreational programs, the centre raises enough money to fund two full-time coaching positions for UBC's varsity crews, as well as assisting with operations and equipment expenses.

"There is no doubt that we have funding challenges ahead of us, some of which we can control and some that are more problematic," says Bob Philip, director of Athletics and Recreation. "But there is no doubt we are finding solutions and producing results, and the rest of Canada is asking us how they can do the same."


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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