As Manager of Athletics at Olds College and a member of the LGTBQ+ community, Trina Radcliffe works to instill the values of giving back in all Broncos athletes
Trina Radcliffe’s life as a sports manager at Olds College has come full circle.
The positive impact she has on students goes beyond athletics as she works with the college to make it an inclusive and safe place for all.
As you arrive on the Olds College campus, you will be greeted by three flags proudly waving across the Alberta sky. 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 colors of the Pride flag on the other. It represents the welcoming, inclusive, and safe space that the institution seeks to provide to its staff, students, and community.
Over the past decade, Olds College has worked to develop its Broncos track and field program, expanding it to include basketball, volleyball, futsal, rodeo, and women’s hockey. Broncos Athletics’ growth over the past five years is credited to Radcliffe and the team she built.
Originally from Oyen, Alta., Radcliffe is a product of her small-town roots. She grew up watching baseball and school sports, not because her 5ft 2 height made her stand out on the field, but because the school needed her to have a team. In the winter, she could be found at the backyard ice rink her father built, learning to play hockey with her three brothers. It wasn’t until she was 13 that she was finally allowed to play in organized hockey. An hour away in Hanna they started a girls program. And as they say in small town Alberta – they needed everyone to have a team.
“There was everything from nine-year-olds to 18-year-olds on this team. I was in the middle at 13 and loved the experience of playing hockey with girls,” says Radcliffe. “I’ve always played hockey but never played organized, only on the pond, so playing organized hockey for the first time was an incredible experience.”
It was a twist of fate that led to a career in goalkeeping. Radcliffe, who had played in defense until then, was first in line to put on the pads when the team’s goalkeeper was injured. She was a natural between the posts and made the transition to goalkeeping. It was a decision that paid off when she became the first goalie on the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) women’s ice hockey team at Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University).
Radcliffe took the lessons she learned as part of a start-up team in small town Alberta and applied the same techniques to start the team in Mount Royal.
“You just go and talk to as many people as you can and convince them that maybe it’s scary, but get out there and try it,” Radcliffe offers. “Me and my coach, Chris Dawe, put up posters that said, ‘Come on, try it’. We had ringette players, we had people who had never played hockey before, who had only skated in public before and could barely skate when they woke up to try. We played in the inner league and wore the old men’s jerseys. We played until midnight some nights and then played in exhibition tournaments with Augustana, Red Deer and Grant MacEwan, that was sort of the beginning of ACAC women’s hockey in 1998.”
Her role in founding Mount Royal’s women’s team led Radcliffe to her next transition – from player to manager. During her final season at 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 secured a full-time position with Hockey Canada as a female development coordinator before moving to the managerial position.
In 2015, Radcliffe transferred to Olds College. She saw the move as a return to her small-town roots, but with an opportunity to stay connected to the network she had built over years of volunteering.
“I met people,” says Radcliffe. “Just building that network and volunteering. I still tell everyone that. Just build your network, don’t worry about getting paid for everything you do, and get involved as a volunteer. I’ve gotten basically every job in sport like this since then.”
Radcliffe grew up in a family that gave back to the community through volunteer work. Radcliffe has reaped the rewards of her own experiences and asked the Broncos to give back and get involved in their community.
“We’ve seen our Broncos women’s hockey team coach smaller hockey teams, gone to schools and skate as part of physical education programs, and we see them at all hockey Alberta camps as team leaders and assistant coaches. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” says Radcliffe.
Broncos athletes have volunteered over 3,700 hours in the community in the last year. Radcliffe recognizes that finding volunteers is a struggle for most organizations right now, but that struggle is creating opportunity for student-athletes at Olds.
“It’s honestly such an important part of who we are. It’s ingrained in our student-athletes. You will come to me now and [ask] who needs help. Who needs help in the community? Pretty much everything, we want them out there. My ultimate goal is to help our student-athletes grow as people and provide opportunities for them. [Volunteering] was the best way for me and I want to convey that to them.”
Radcliffe’s work at Olds College has not gone unnoticed. In April, she received the Colleges & Institutes Canada Leadership Excellence Award for executives. The award recognizes her work in creating a collaborative, welcoming team that positively impacts students while doing so as part of the institution’s strategic plan. The support Radcliffe receives from her team, leadership and community encourages her to be creative and collaborative.
Community support encouraged Olds College to create the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Board in 2019. The GSA is composed of faculty, staff and representatives from Olds High School, with Radcliffe playing a key role in its development.
“Actually, Olds High School taught us how to implement a GSA in college because they have such a strong GSA group in their high school,” says Radcliffe. “It just started as employees as allies. It has taken four years for students to feel comfortable saying, “Yes, I am an ally. I’m going to come and be a part of GSA.” So it’s been a big step and the goal is for GSA to be student-run.”
Radcliffe is a member of the LGTBQ+ community and the EDI Committee. The College is currently working on Safe Space signage for offices. In addition, the campus has 27 gender-friendly washrooms, two Pride flags flying high, and an EDI website with resources and directories for Indigenous students, people of color, and the GSA.
“I think everyone’s trying to achieve the same thing,” Radcliffe says as she reflects on the advances she’s spearheaded. “Whether in sports, EDI, the registry office or recruiting student athletes, everyone is trying to get better and do better.
“Because we can represent the LGBTQ+ community here, we are also working on eliminating a crosswalk on campus. The city supported us. The city fell behind and also sat on our EDI committee. And I think that’s all important.”
Although June is Pride Month nationwide, the effort to become better does not end on June 30th.
“You have to repeat yourself,” says Radcliffe. “So every year when we start our registration process for our small sports leagues, every year when we do the first team meetings, we talk about how kind we’re going to be, how we’re going to treat each other with respect, how we’re not going to be bullied because of it race, or gender, or sexual identity, or any of those things, and it has to be prominent at all times. But we must repeat it. We always have to talk about it.”