Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Turns 40

March 26, 2014
By Bob Peters

Cornwall Ontario – Sandra Murray-MacDonell is a busy lady. The Executive Director of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) heads an organization that organizes athletic competitions for thousands of student-athletes across Canada. It is a job that often takes her away from the CCAA head office in Cornwall.

“Travelling is part of the job,” shrugs Murray-MacDonell. “Canada is a big place and the CCAA has members from the Atlantic to the Pacific.“

In fact, 94 colleges, universities, technical institutes and cégeps make up the CCAA, which was founded in 1974 to provide competitive opportunities in intercollegiate sport at the national level. Today, CCAA student-athletes compete in seven sports at 10 CCAA national championships, each hosted by a CCAA member institution.

Many CCAA alumni have achieved success at the national and international levels. Some notable alumni include:

Mike Babcock (NHL and Team Canada Coach)
Marie Philip Poulin, Lauriane Rougeau, Catherine Ward and Shannon Szabados (Team Canada Gold Medal Winners)
Alex Harvey (World-ranked and Olympian cross-country skier)
Kevin Martin and Ryan Harnden (Olympic Gold Medal winning curlers)
to name just a few
Ms. Murray-MacDonell herself is no stranger to competition. The all-around athlete excelled at basketball in high-school and university. After graduating from Queens University with a Masters in Sports Sociology, she interned with Softball Canada before joining the CCAA in 1993. Twenty-one years later she is still with the Association, which is headquartered on the campus of St. Lawrence College in Cornwall.

In her two decades at the CCAA, Ms. Murray-MacDonell has seen a lot of changes in national collegiate sport.

“We continue to help spearhead the growth of knowledge and expertise in the development of our sports, and that includes athlete development, event preparation and coaching development,” says Ms. Murray-MacDonell. “We are also enjoying the growth and resurgence of sports such as golf, curling and cross-country running.”

The cost of running a sports program continues to be a challenge for many schools, especially smaller ones. The complexity of educational programs across the country, the struggle to obtain appropriate media recognition and the ongoing competition from large Universities, are all issues that the CCAA Board and staff work to address on a daily basis.

To Ms Murray-MacDonell, the effort is worthy because sport helps enrich the academic experience for the athlete.

Sport within the educational system is held to a high moral and ethical standard, forcing student-athletes to develop organization skills, goal setting and a strong work ethic.

“Post-secondary sport builds the leaders of tomorrow,” she says.
Still, as the players take the field, the complexities and politics of sport at the national level give way to the pure enjoyment of the game.

“Let’s face it – for those of us who are avid sport enthusiasts, whether participant or fan – it is the spectacular play, the nail biting finish of a game, the friendships and rivalries we developed around sport that last,” says Ms. Murray-MacDonell. “It’s where memories live on.”

2014 marks the CCAA’s 40th Anniversary. To celebrate the CCAA will be inducting ten people into the CCAA Hall of Fame for the very first time. It will also launch The History of the CCAA – a 400 page account of the origins and development of the CCAA as a national institution.

You can learn more on the CCAA website, along with following the latest news in each of the CCAA sports. You can also watch the action as National Championship events are streamed live.


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