Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomeFeaturesFormer Mohawk College athletic director Mary Hrycay looks back fondly

Former Mohawk College athletic director Mary Hrycay looks back fondly

Mary Hrycay studied at the University of Windsor to become a teacher, but near the end of her program she realized that she didn’t want to pursue a career in academics, at least not in a traditional sense.

Hrycay instead took the administration stream of human kinetics.

Seeking more hands-on experience in the field, she decided to attend Mohawk College in 1984 instead and joined the Recreational Leadership program.

“I wanted to get into sports management of some sort, but I had no background,” Hrycay said. “I had no experience behind me. So I made the decision at that point in time that I wanted to come to a college that I could get a practical experience at.”

“It was because of the practical stuff,” Hrycay explained. “First year and second year we had practicums where we were out in different organizations and working. We were getting some working skills and stuff. That’s why I came to Mohawk.”

After working in the athletic department for several years, she was eventually promoted to the athletic director role at the college in 1998.

During her tenure, Hrycay oversaw 13 different sports including basketball, volleyball, soccer, curling and badminton.

When Hrycay started working at Mohawk, varsity and intramurals were two separate departments. By the time she became the athletic director, they had merged into the same department.

Hrycay was in charge of scheduling games, booking transportation and booking accommodations for varsity athletes.

Two people, Mary Hrycay on the right, wearing a sombrero.
Mountaineer Day, 1990. Hrycay (r) started working at the college in 1987 in athletics and then moved to the Brantford Campus, as the manager of student life.

She mentioned that when she was working at the school, the athletic department was not as well funded as it is now.

“We didn’t have the money to afford buses to take the athletes to games, so we rented vans, and the coaches would drive,” Hrycay said.

“We used to have a skiing team, and we went up to Collingwood,” she remembered. “I was driving the van up to Collingwood … this old 15-passenger Dodge thing that had like the one full door on the back.”

“One of the guys went around the back to open the door to get his bag to get his money to grab something to eat and he opened the door and the door fell off the van, and I’m sitting in the passenger seat and one guy, he kind of was pushing the door from the inside,” Hrycay said with a laugh. “So he’s laying across all the seats and he’s like, ‘Help!’”

“And all I could see is these arms and legs going,” Hrycay continued. “So, I get out, I go around, and the door is like half off. And I’m like, ‘Oh my God!’  So, with everybody’s help, we managed to get it on and then we tied it from the inside. And then we were able to drive the rest of the way home.”

Although she oversaw all the sports that Mohawk athletes played, she was more knowledgeable about certain ones than others.

“My love was always basketball, but I always played a number of different sports and in my mind, we treated all athletes equally. Nobody got preferential treatment, nobody got any of that kind of stuff,” Hrycay said.

Hrycay said everyone who worked at the college back then were very close.

“Our dean of students at the time … he was very big on all of us under the student life umbrella being a family,” Hrycay said. “So we would do a lot of program director things, we’d go out bowling or we would as a group, go down to a conservation area, do a hike and have a picnic.”

“All the people that we worked with and that we knew, we got to know their families,” Hrycay continued. “That was a big part of what made working here really nice because you had that personal relationship with people. You had all of that stuff and we were a team.”

Kelvin Lee, who worked alongside Hrycay at the college, said the hiring structure at Mohawk has changed since he was there.

“What’s really changed is the college used to hire [from] within,” Lee said. “So [for] a lot of graduates from within, it’s not automatic. You’ve got to compete and be chosen. And there is something to be said if you go to a place and you stay, and that place becomes home.”

“But we all know there’s lots of college grads and university grads from everywhere that work elsewhere that can create that home within,” he continued. “It’s just the timing. So when Mary talked about it, those years, it just was a whole bunch of us homegrown came in and then we just worked together for years.”

Lee talked about the different ways that the school has monitored student-athletes’ academics.

“Back in the day, they actually brought in an academic diary,” Lee said. “If you were playing, when you’re done with class, your teacher had to sign the diary. And then if you ran into trouble by chance, and then the teacher calls the coach, coach talks to you, you say one thing, but the diary has no signature for three classes.”

“They’ve built up the support over the years,” Lee said. “I think they have an academic advisor within, they actually have the academic sessions.”

Hrycay said she still gets together occasionally with her former co-workers.

“We do connect with some of the staff that worked with us, and we’ll get together at somebody’s house, and we’ll have dinner or whatever, and there’s probably about 20 of us still left from that whole network, we call ourselves the student-lifers,” Hrycay said.

“And so we’ll get together quite regularly with that group of people and maintain those relationships,” she continued. “Because we all kind of grew up together.”


Most Popular

Recent Comments