Embracing Tradition in a Culture of Innovation

Stop number two on the road to Vancouver is the University of Notre Dame in South Bend Indiana, a University owning one of the richest sport histories in collegiate athletics. Our connection to Notre Dame came about in 2013 when we were approached by their women’s basketball program to host a game for them in Toronto. Their program has a long tradition of playing at least one game in the hometown (or home region) of every senior member of the team. One of their stars at the time, an All-American who would would later be a 1st round WNBA draft choice, is a Canadian from Hamilton and member of our women’s national team. That national program connection brought Notre Dame to Ryerson. This is the best kind of tradition, as it gives the athletes, who dedicate themselves to the school and team for 4 years, the opportunity to showcase their development as players to family and friends who may not have the ability to travel to see Notre Dame play. After making the athlete an integral member of the Notre Dame community, it brings UND into the athlete’s community and broadens the reach and profile of the program. Needless to say our department was thrilled to be a part of it, our gym was packed and the game was a huge success for Notre Dame and for Ryerson.

Traditions matter in sports. It’s what bridges generations of fans and provides a framework for the story of a team or program. The Ryerson Rams have a history, but not much to speak of in terms of traditions. We are searching for our version of the Cameron Crazies or the Iron Bowl, and if only our blue and gold uniforms resonated in the same way as the gold helmet of the Fighting Irish. These traditions activate a campus and community well past what an ordinary game is capable of and creates connections between the programs and students well past graduation. Have we truly embraced building traditions? Our department has a new building, new look and new energy. We’ve focused on innovation, growth and developing new ideas that keep us ahead of the curve. What’s going to be challenging is finding those practices that can endure over time as new generations of students join the #Ramily and look to create their own experiences.

When we arrive in South Bend, it will be on my mind to ask what traditions have endured. How are they nurtured and embraced by the community and of their best traditions, what are the common themes? I want to know how they stay relevant and fresh. Finally, how has sponsorship and development affected traditions as revenue generation has become more critical? I know traditions can thrive at Ryerson and I think the Rams are ready to build their own. Look no further than Mass Exodus as an example of the best of Ryerson traditions. To meet a lofty goal such as this, our traditions in Athletics will have to speak to the best qualities of our students, athletes and university. We are entrepreneurial and driven but I also believe there is a spirit in our students that appreciates a university that allows them to find their own voice and make their own mark. Our next step to becoming the premier athletic department in the country is to begin growing our traditions for the future. Maybe an institution with over 170 years of history can help us.

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