Trina Radcliffe’s life has come full circle as the manager of athletics at Olds College.
The positive impact she’s making on students goes beyond athletics, as she works with the college to make it an inclusive and safe space for all.
When you arrive on campus at Olds College, you are welcomed by three flags flying proudly across the Alberta skies. Throughout the month of June, the red and white of the Canadian flag is anchored by the blue of the Alberta flag on one side, and the rainbow colours of the Pride flag on the other. It signifies the welcome, inclusive and safe space the institution is working to provide its staff, students and community.
Over the last decade, Olds College has worked to develop its Broncos athletics program, expanding to include basketball, volleyball, futsal, rodeo and women’s hockey. The growth that Broncos Athletics has seen over the last five years can be credited to Radcliffe and the team she has built.
Radcliffe, originally from Oyen, Alta., is a product of her small-town roots. She grew up playing baseball and school sports, not because she was a standout on the court with her 5-foot-2 frame, but because the school needed her to have a team. In the winter, she could be found on the backyard rink built by her dad where she learned to play hockey with her three brothers. It wasn’t until she was 13 that she finally got to lace up for organized hockey. An hour away in Hanna they were starting a girls’ program. And as the story goes in small-town Alberta – they needed everyone to have a team.
“There was everything from nine-year-olds to 18-year-olds on that team. I was in the middle at 13 years old and loved the experience of playing hockey with girls,” says Radcliffe. “I’d always played hockey, but never got to play organized, just on the pond, so getting to play organized hockey for the first time was such an incredible experience.”
It was a twist of fate that led to a goaltending career. Radcliffe, who had played defence until then, was first in line to strap on the pads when the team’s goaltender got hurt. She was a natural between the posts and made the transition to goalie. It was a decision that paid off when she became the first goaltender for the women’s hockey team at Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University) in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
Taking the lessons she learned as part of a start-up team in small-town Alberta, Radcliffe applied the same techniques to starting the team at Mount Royal.
“You just go and talk to as many people as you can and convince them that it might be scary, but come out and give it a try,” offers Radcliffe. “Myself and my coach, Chris Dawe, were putting up posters saying, ‘Come try out,’ We had ringette players, we had people who had never played hockey before, who had only public skated before, could barely skate when they came to try out. We played in the intramural league, wearing the men’s old jerseys. We played until midnight some nights and then we played in exhibition tournaments with Augustana, Red Deer and Grant MacEwan, so that was kind of the start of women’s ACAC hockey back in 1998.”
Her role in starting the Mount Royal women’s team led Radcliffe to her next transition – from player to administration. During her last season with Mount Royal, she was coached by Shelly Coolidge, who was also the female development manager at Hockey Canada. Whenever Coolidge needed volunteers, Radcliffe was there. Because of the network she had built, Radcliffe eventually earned a full-time position with Hockey Canada as the female development coordinator before moving into the manager position.
In 2015, Radcliffe made the move to Olds College. She saw the move as a return to her small-town roots, but with the opportunity to stay connected to the network she had built over years of volunteering.
“I got to know people,” says Radcliffe. “Just building that network and volunteering. That’s still what I tell everyone. Just build your network, don’t worry about getting paid for everything that you do and volunteer. That’s basically how I got every job in sport since then.”
Radcliffe grew up in a family that gave back to the community thugh volunteering. Reaping the rewards of her own experiences, Radcliffe has asked the Broncos to give back and be involved in their community.
“We’ve seen our Broncos women’s hockey team coaching minor hockey teams, going out to schools and skating with the physical education programs and we’re seeing them in all of the Hockey Alberta camps as team leaders and assistant coaches. So that’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Radcliffe says.
Broncos athletes spent over 3,700 hours in the last year volunteering in the community. Radcliffe has recognized that it’s a struggle for most organizations to find volunteers right now, but that struggle creates opportunity for student-athletes in Olds.
“It honestly is such an important part of who we are. It’s engrained in our student-athletes. They’ll come to me now and [ask] who needs help. Who needs help in the community? Pretty much anything, we want them out there. My number-one goal is to help our student-athletes grow as people and to provide them opportunity. [Volunteering] was the best way for me and I want to instill that in them.”
Radcliffe’s work at Olds College has not gone unnoticed. In April, she received the Colleges & institutes Canada Leadership Excellence Award for Managerial Staff. The award acknowledges her work to create a collaborative, welcoming team that makes a positive impact on students, while doing it under the strategic plan of the institution. The support Radcliffe feels from her team, leadership and the community is what encourages her to be creative and collaborative.
The support from the community is what has encouraged Olds College to establish the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) in 2019 and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. The GSA is composed of faculty, staff and representatives from Olds High School, with Radcliffe playing an instrumental role in their development.
“Olds High School is actually the ones who taught us how to implement a GSA at the college because they have such a strong GSA group at their high school,” says Radcliffe. “It just started as staff as allies. It has taken us four years for students to feel comfortable to say ‘Yeah, I’m an ally. I’ll come and be a part of the GSA.’ So, it’s been huge steps and that’s the goal, is that the GSA should be student-led.”
Radcliffe is a member of the LGTBQ+ community and the EDI Committee. Currently, the college is working on safe-space signage for offices. In addition, there are 27 gender-inclusive washrooms available on campus, two Pride flags flying high and an EDI webpage complete with resources and directories for Indigenous students, people of colour and the GSA.
“I think everyone is trying to achieve the same thing,” Radcliffe says, reflecting on the progress she has led. “Whether it’s in sport, EDI, the registrar’s office and recruitment of student-athletes, everyone is trying to be better and do better.
“Being able to represent the LGBTQ+ community here, we’re working on painting a crosswalk on campus as well. The town has supported us. The town has gotten behind and sat on our EDI Committee as well. And I think that’s all important.”
Although June marks Pride Month across the country, the efforts to be better do not end on June 30.
“You have to be repetitive with it,” Radcliffe says. “So every year when we start our registration process for our minor sports leagues, every year when we do the initial team meetings, we talk about how we are going to be kind, how we are going to treat each other with respect, how we will not tolerate bullying on the basis of the colour of the skin or gender or sexual identity or any of those things and it has to be on the forefront all the time. But we have to be repetitive about it. We have to always talk about it.”