New head of Huskie Athletics aims to make the U of S a destination for student-athletes
SASKATOON -- Huskie Athletics has announced that Regina-born Shannon Chinn will lead the program into the post-Covid world as the new chief athletics officer.
Chinn is the first woman to hold the position since Pat Jackson, who was named athletics director in 1973.
“The amount of outreach that I've had since the announcement came out [Tuesday], it's just been incredible,” said Chinn. “Huskie Athletics is going to rise and just be the predominant place for student-athletes to want to come and play.”
University of Saskatchewan kinesiology dean Chad London says Chinn was the strongest candidate out of more than 100 applicants for the job.
“She set herself apart from the very deep pool, a strong pool of candidates, and she set herself apart as the ideal choice for us as our next chief athletics officer,” he said.
“What Shannon brings to the table would be just a strong set of skills and experience. She's worked in sport for a long time and has lived in sport for a long time— even being a student-athlete herself. She's worked in professional and amateur sport organizations, she's worked in university sport.”
Chinn played basketball at the University of Ottawa, while also earning a bachelor’s degree in human kinetics and post-graduate study in sports business management.
The 45-year-old won’t officially fill the role until June 15, but she already knows she’ll be facing down the monumental task of helping to return U Sports athletics back to normal after the pandemic.
“No one's done this before, from our university to any of the universities across the country, so I think it's really important that we're working with Canada West, with U Sports, and with all the other universities to collaborate to do it the best way together,” she said.
“The number one priority obviously is the safety of our student-athletes and our coaches coming back in. A lot of them haven't been on the playing surface for a long time, so even just injury prevention and that aside from the COVID, and the restrictions there, we really need to make sure that it's a safe environment.”
Apart from the potential difficulties of getting athletes back into their environments safely, many organizations will face financial adversity after a year of no competition.
“There will be financial constraints that will probably limit some of the operational opportunities that we've had in the past,” said Huskies women’s basketball coach Lisa Thomaidis. “I think as coaches we always try to improve our teams from year to year, and again, what we're providing in terms of an experience and things like that and from a program perspective.”
“Certainly financial support and scholarships, and where we can go to continue to improve those areas of support. I think there'll be a big push again to improve the academic and mental health supports that are available to our student athletes, and certainly the the gameday experience.”
Chinn says engaging with the community and getting people back in the stands will go a long way towards more financial stability.
“I think a lot of people have realized to this pandemic that your own backyard is even more important now, and so I think that the community is really going to rally around Huskie Athletics and the other teams in the city,” she said.
“People are really supporting that shop local concept, and I think that we're going to see that through athletics.”
Thomaidis says it’s great to see a woman coming into this kind of position in Saskatchewan.
“I think it's been a long time coming,” she said. “When I was at McMaster we had a female athletic director name was her name is Therese Quigley, and I think she was one of the first ones in North America at the time, or one of the only ones I should say, not the first.”
“That was in the nineties, and you didn't realize how forward-thinking and how not common that was at the time.”
“You're seeing across all aspects, not just in basketball, not just in what happened with NCAA in the women's versus men's, but you're just really seeing a rise in interest, in exposure to women's sports,” said Chinn.
“I think that that's something that we can really capitalize on in U Sports, and especially having the leading basketball team, having one of the premier coaches in the country is unbelievable, and I'm really looking forward to working with Lisa.”
Chinn says her connection with the U of S runs deep; her grandfather was a professor there, and both parents are alumni with her dad competing on the track & field team.