U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our interview series “Getting to know…”

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  • Name: Jeff Thorburn  
  • School: UBC Okanagan
  • Position: Head Athletic Therapist
  • Previous job/position: Head Athletic Therapist & Strength Coach - Kelowna Rockets, WHL
  • Hometown: Dalhousie, N.B.

1. How did you get to your current position, and what do you enjoy most about our job?

I was previously employed as a full-time team therapist and strength coach in hockey.  As enjoyable as it is to work within the hockey world, it also can create a strain on family and lifestyle due to the lengthy hours and heavy travel commitments. 

When this position at UBC Okanagan became available, I was very fortunate to be successful in my application.  Working with high-performance student-athletes is always very enjoyable, but also to be able to work with those same people who also have other life and worldly goals is very gratifying.  There is always a sense of pride to see those student-athletes either move on in their sport or move on into their field of study and careers.

2. Who has had the most influence on your career?

I would have to say my father. This may seem odd to some people as he had passed away a few years before I had re-started my post-secondary education and progressed into this field.  Regardless, I know he would have greatly enjoyed the line of study that I followed and I am sure that he would be proud of my career to date as well.  I think his demeanor, positivity, and fun-loving outlook are still present, with both my family and my work.

3. What is your greatest sporting moment or achievement?

I have been fortunate to have been involved with Hockey Canada on several occasions.  Working with national teams and being a part of international tournaments is always thrilling.  I was honored to have been a part of their gold-medal winning team at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ottawa in 2009.  I was also very fortunate to be with the bronze medal winning hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics and the silver medal winning team at the Men’s World Hockey Championships most recently.

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4. How would you define a UBC Okanagan student-athlete?

Committed, dedicated, passionate.

5. What does success look like for the UBC Okanagan University athletics program?

Even though we are relatively young as a U SPORTS institution, we need to move past that label and focus on becoming stronger across all sports.  I think in large part that is ditching the “new school” mind-set and creating a culture of accountability, responsibility, and ownership.  That is across players, coaches, support staff and administrators.

6. What’s the biggest challenge you face in today’s sports world?

It seems as though many people in today’s sporting world just expect, expect, expect.  Creating a culture with the attributes mentioned above (responsibility, accountability and ownership) is challenging but once it develops, it becomes infectious and it can be the athletes who then guide and teach the next group from year to year.

7. Where would you like to see Canadian university sport in the next three to five years?

I think consistently developing National-level athletes is important but developing strong people and leaders who can contribute positively to society should also be of great importance to U SPORTS.

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8. If you could sit down for dinner with one person in the sports industry (athlete, coach or manager), who would it be? Why? What would you talk about?

Tough question. Grigory Rodchenkov, Dave King, Steve Yzerman, Tiger Woods.  It’s so tough to say as there are so many.  Good conversation and good food and drink is all I need.

9. What would you say to a sports fan who’s never watched a U SPORTS game/tournament/competition?

Go experience the level of competition.  It tends to be an underrated level of dedication and performance.

10. What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from work?

Family time, mountain biking, skiing, gardening.