Conceptual model FAQs

The competitive sport model presented here is a conceptual framework developed to function as a vision for the future and a starting place for the new managing director. The model has evolved from this starting framework, and will continue to do so based on feedback provided through ongoing input from stakeholders.

Why re-imagine athletics and recreation at UBC?

We’re already really, really good, but we know we can be even better. An external review of UBC’s Athletics and Recreation department in May 2012 identified ways to improve operations, raise UBC’s profile, better reflect our values, and celebrate our school spirit. This opened the door to a re-imagining process that will help us achieve great things, like:

  • raising UBC’s reputation as a leader in competitive sport;
  • growing the UBC Thunderbirds legacy and continuing to attract top student-athletes; and,
  • increasing participation in athletics campus-wide.

Who has been involved in the re-imagining process?

To respond to the important questions raised in the 2012 peer review, UBC’s leadership invited a ‘think-tank’ of experts to begin to frame how UBC could re-imagine our athletics mission given our commitment to excellence. The think-tank is composed of senior administrators, academics, and partners in the private sector. Members include:

  • David Burleigh
  • Louise Cowin
  • Marion Lay
  • Wendy Pattenden
  • Richard Price

Read biographies of think-tank participants (PDF).

Throughout the re-imagining process, passionate stakeholders including coaches, UBC Athletics & Recreation administrators, Thunderbirds alumni, and student leaders were consulted.

What inspired this new model?

The new UBC Competitive Sport model is based on the Canadian Sport for Life model, which encourages an active life regardless of competition level. This notion pairs well with UBC’s commitment to supporting the whole student in athletic and academic pursuits so that they can live a more active and full life. The continued success of Varsity programs at UBC has also been identified as a priority by the think-tank and has contributed to the development of the model.

Who will benefit from the model?

Our ambition is that everyone with an interest in sports and athletics will find a place in the new model. We want to work toward providing all UBC community members with opportunities to participate in sport across a range of competition levels. This includes everything from trying a new sport to pursuing involvement at the highest levels of elite sport.

Will the model apply to both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses?

No, the new model is only applicable to UBC’s Vancouver campus.

How will the new model support elite level competition?

We want to achieve enhanced levels of excellence. We also want to attract and support the very best elite athletes and coaches, as well as sport science researchers and administrators in select sports. We will develop and strengthen national, international, and strategic partnerships, and make UBC a place of choice for top-caliber athletes training in Canada.

How does the new model support Varsity sports at UBC?

Varsity teams will receive renewed focus and robust support so they continue to be perennial contenders and champions. The model builds on UBC’s long and proud Thunderbirds legacy and raises the profile of UBC athletics. A higher profile means we’ll continue to attract, train, and educate the best and brightest student-athletes from Canada and around the world. We’ll also attract top national and international coaches, and encourage more engagement from alumni.

Will there be changes to Varsity teams?

There may be changes to varsity teams. We are committed to being transparent about these changes and there will be ongoing consultation about how to implement the model. Leadership is expected to come from the new Managing Director, Athletics.

What about support for other competitive sports at UBC?

A new and important area of focus, represented by the colour gold in the new model, will provide more opportunities for the entire UBC community to participate in competitive sports. Here you’ll find competitive and organized sport leagues like youth clubs, camps, UBC sport clubs, and UBC community clubs.

Once established, this area will provide increased focus and a more disciplined approach for delivering these opportunities. This will help more members of the UBC community engage with sport, develop skills, connect with others, improve their wellbeing, and have a more enriched experience at UBC.

How does this model promote wellbeing for the UBC community?

The wellbeing of all UBC community members is very important and has been identified as a priority. Details about how we will develop a stronger culture of wellbeing on campus are still in early development, but this is already an outcome we are committed to delivering.

Within the new model, wellbeing is closely connected to competitive sport encouraging movement across areas and competition levels. This makes it easier for any community member to progress to a level of physical activity that best suits them, whether competitive or not. The desired result is that everyone at UBC will have the opportunity to live a more active and full life.

Will we continue to compete in the CIS and NAIA?

UBC decided in 2011 to continue its memberships in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) rather than apply to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at that time. We have a proud history with the CIS and will hope to build upon our legacy while continuing to drive the change that’s needed to better attract and support student-athletes. UBC has helped lead proposals for such change that have been unanimously endorsed by Canada West members in 2012 and which are currently being considered by CIS members. Learn more about those proposals.

Does this new model impact existing recreation programs, activities, and events?

No, the programs, activities, and events currently enjoyed by the University community will continue to be supported by UBC REC.

Who will be leading the implementation of this new model?

The new Managing Director, Athletics will be responsible for leading the appropriate team to implement the model.

When will the new model be implemented?

A plan for moving forward is in development, with implementation of the competitive sport model beginning in fall 2013.

Estimated schedule:
  • Summer 2013: Managing Director, Athletics starts working in new role
  • Summer 2013: Wellbeing model (green area of model) articulated
  • Fall 2013: Develop criteria for varsity sport designation and begin consultation on criteria
  • Fall 2013: Implementation of the competitive sport model begins
  • Fall 2013: Wellbeing model consultation begins
  • Winter 2014: Application of the varsity sport designation criteria
  • Spring/summer 2014: Implementation of the wellbeing model begins


I want to start a competitive club, what should I do?

Fantastic! Your enthusiasm is wonderful. We’re still determining the process for establishing competitive sport clubs at UBC, but stay tuned for more details in the coming months.

How much will this new model cost UBC? Will the Athletics Fee I pay increase?

The athletics fee students pay will not increase immediately as a result of the new competitive sport model; however, this is something that will likely be reconsidered as the model rolls out and new facilities to support sport and wellbeing come on-stream. Affordability will be top of mind when the University considers increasing fees to support student success through sport and wellbeing, and students will be consulted before any decisions are made.

Does the proportional size of model areas represent future funding allocations?

Proportionality of the model is not intended to reflect future funding allocations.

How does this model impact our already overcrowded athletics facilities?

Constrained space is an issue that we are planning for in development of the model, particularly with the addition of the gold area (UBC Competitive Sports Clubs and Training Camps). While specific policies are still in development, there is a plan to provide competitive clubs access to facilities at designated times so we are optimizing use of the space we have available.