Women’s Basketball News

In honour of International Women's Week, U SPORTS profiles female leaders among its membership. 

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karla karch
Mount Royal Cougars
Director, Athletics and Recreation
Calgary, Alta. 

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

Upon retirement from the national team and my life as a professional athlete I wasn’t sure what I would do. A friend of mine suggested applying for a position with the Alberta Summer Games, which I was successful in getting. That lead to working for the World Masters Games in Edmonton and my passion for sports administration. An opportunity arose at Mount Royal soon after fulfilling my duties for the Games and it was then I had to make a decision - become a Games junky or settle into the managers’ position for Cougar Athletics. Thirteen years later and I haven’t looked back.

Over the past year with the merge of Athletics and Recreation my role changed to that of Director, Cougars Athletics and Recreation.

What I enjoy most about my position is twofold. First, to see the passion from both sides (athletics and recreation) at different ends of the spectrum is remarkable. Both areas at MRU focus on the students with our end result being wanting them to be better citizens when they leave. How they get there and the journey that they take is fascinating. And knowing that we were part of that journey. The second enjoyment I get is the opportunity to lead a team of individuals that are so passionate, invested and truly care about the work they do for Cougars Athletics and Recreation.

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

My mother and father. My mom taught me the ability to be a team player and yet independent through her words and actions. My father taught me a strong work ethic. It is one of the things I am most proud about from my years playing basketball, in particular later in my career. You can’t control how much you play, but you can control how hard you work to get the opportunity to play.

3. What is your greatest sporting moment or achievement?

Representing Canada at World Championships, FISU and Olympic Games (1996 and 2000). To me wearing the Maple Leaf is a great honour that I cherish to this day as I know how much work, determination and a bit of luck it takes to make it at the international level.

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4. How would you define a Mount Royal student-athlete?

A Cougar student-athlete has three components that are fulfilled. First I believe the outstanding work our coaches do at recruiting good people and the “right” fit for MRU. We are a small institution with personalized learning in a big city.

Second is the academic component. Do we offer what they want to study? If not, I would question why they are coming to our institution. Someday, no matter what athletic career a student-athlete has, they will need their degree. If we can’t offer what they want to study, this is not the right fit for them.

And third, their athletic ability. Our coaches work endless hours and know what they need from a talent perspective. Finding that young person to fit the complex puzzle of each of our eight programs is not an easy task.

5. What does success look like for the MRU athletics program?

Success is  multi-faceted. Having our student-athletes leave as better people from when they first arrived is success. That means they graduate with an understanding of the importance of volunteering, advocacy, how being a student-athlete contributed to their growth and the affinity they have to MRU as alumni.

For the varsity programs it means establishing ourselves within Canada West and U SPORTS. I truly believe we are moving towards this by the win/loss records, post conference play and the recognition our student-athletes are receiving for their academic and athletic accomplishments.

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

The ever-changing student-athlete and the challenges they each face, in particular with mental health issues. Our coaches are, in many cases the front line to each of our student-athletes. Providing an environment of support and equipping each of them with the skills and ability to help these people is paramount.

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

 I believe the sporting landscape is changing in Canada and we are currently looking at that change both from a conference and national body. We must continue to ask questions (and get answers) to this change but also not be afraid of it. My experiences have taught me that change is a good thing, it’s how we deal with this change that will have lasting implications.

 The social media world has provided opportunities that years ago we never envisioned. We need to continue to take advantage of the positives (webcasting etc.) while being aware and prepared for any possible negative repercussions.

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?

This is a tough one because I want to sit with a few people for different reasons. Al Bohonus who was instrumental in establishing Cougars Athletics in the 90’s and the vision he had for the varsity programs. Teresa Edwards for what she accomplished as an athlete and how she carried herself both on and off the court. And finally Mike Krzyzewski to talk about how he sustains his love and passion (for a sport) after more than 37 years.

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

 You don’t really know how good the sport and student-athletes are until you’ve watched it. And the commitment it takes by all those involved is remarkable - from the student-athletes, coaching staff to those behind the scenes making it happen is a testament to amateur sports in Canada. 

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

Spending time with my family, golfing and travel.