University values draw Hall back to his roots
Much has changed at the University of Lethbridge since Ryan Hall (BA ’00) ran the basketball court with the likes of Spencer Holt and Danny Balderson.
The concrete dungeon they called a home court is gone, replaced by the 1st Choice Savings Centre for Sport and Wellness. The small, liberal arts school once known primarily for producing teachers has grown into a comprehensive university that initiates cutting-edge research from every corner of campus.
What has stayed the same is what drew Hall back to assume the position of Pronghorn athletics manager.
“You see the changes in the facilities and how the University has grown up in so many areas, but the values have stayed the same,” says Hall, now a father of four. “It’s amazing how many people I recognize from when I was an undergraduate here and who have stayed on as staff because it is such a great atmosphere.”
A Claresholm, Alta., native, Hall spent the past four years in Greely, Colorado, earning a master’s degree in sports management and working on his PhD. Fully expecting to remain in the United States, the U of L opportunity was too good to let pass.
“Lethbridge was really the only place in Canada where we’d come back to,” he says.
Hall didn’t initially pursue a career in sports management; rather he worked four years in Calgary as a rehabilitation therapist. His goal, however, was always to gravitate back to sport. It was a path he discovered through a course taught by then U of L professor Dr. Gary Bowie.
“It opened something up that I had never realized. I didn’t know programs such as sport management existed,” Hall says. “Health care was a good experience, I learned a lot and there were some good transferable skills, but it wasn’t anything I was really passionate about and wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
While completing his master’s at the University of Northern Colorado (what he calls the other UNC), Hall cut his sport management teeth in a NCAA Division 1 environment. Despite the fact UNC is a new player at the Div. 1 level, it still presented Hall the opportunity to see big-time post-secondary athletics and the difference between the American and Canadian models is startling.
“It’s big business down there, almost to an extreme. I think they somewhat lose sight of the student part of the student-athlete. I think they try but with the business approach they take, it’s all about generating revenues,” says Hall.
“We do a better job of prioritizing the fact our athletes are students, first and foremost.”
Still, he recognizes that Canadian athletics can learn from its southern neighbours, especially when it comes to engaging supporters and creating passion for their teams, whether it is the student body, alumni or community as a whole.
“I hope at some point we can get a little more of that, and often times it comes from the people who live in the community. The community gets on board and supports the University as both fans and donors,” he says.
“I also hope to create an atmosphere where we have our alumni excited about athletics and see them wearing it on their sleeves a little bit more.”
He experienced that atmosphere, having played on the 2000 Pronghorns men’s basketball team that hosted the Canada West final against University of Alberta. They were the last really significant men’s games played on campus and the series energized the entire area.
“In the end, you still have to be competitive and build momentum with winning teams, and I think that will come,” says Hall.
GET THE FACTS
• Prior to coming to the U of L to study kinesiology and play basketball, Hall spent two years playing baseball at Cochise College in Arizona.
• He met his wife Terra (Dudley) while at the U of L. She played basketball for Lethbridge College. They have four children, Tevin (11), Abbie (9), Emily (6) and Brynna (23 months), with a fifth on the way.
• Hall describes University of Northern Colorado and the town of Greely as a parallel to the
U of L and Lethbridge. “The school focused on business, nursing and education, with about 10,000 students in an agricultural community of 85,000.”