“Experience the energy”: Badger Athletics at Brock’s Homecoming

Robert Hilson (left) is joined by Joel Whitty (Assistant Basketball Coach) and Chris Critelli (Assistant Director of Athletics) at Grape Stomp

Robert Hilson (left) is joined by Joel Whitty (Assistant Basketball Coach) and Chris Critelli (Assistant Director of Athletics) at Grape Stomp

Homecoming is synonymous with celebration, spirit, and coming together for one’s school. In past years, Brock alumni came back to campus for Alumni Weekend, and the Brock University Students’ Union hosted spirited events, including O-Week and student-run homecoming for students. But these two groups never really came together for one giant weekend to celebrate Brock, welcome everyone ‘home,’ and cheer on our Badgers.

Things have changed this year.

Both current and former Badgers are preparing for a weekend of celebrating and remembering their time as Brock students. In 2013, Brock’s Homecoming will kick into high gear with a variety of sports being played on and around campus. Picture painted faces, streaming banners, and the booming yells of “Go Badgers Go!”

We sat down with Robert Hilson, Brock Badgers Athletic director, to discuss his homecoming experiences at other institutions (Western University and McMaster University), Brock athletics’ place at Homecoming, and how we’re building the Homecoming tradition.

BN: What is your favourite part of our past Homecoming, Brock Days and Alumni Weekend celebrations?

RH: Oh, it’s definitely the energy and excitement. Imagine being an alumnus who comes to a campus where there are 2,000 students, all somewhere around the ages of between 18 and 24, at the peak of their energies, all smiling, having a great time, and all happy people. It’s infectious. As an alumnus, you’re thinking “Man, I remember when I did that.” Homecomings should be fun, adventurous, enjoyable and uplifting, and I’ve found our Homecomings to be exactly that.

Robert Hilson

Robert Hilson

BN: You’ve attended many homecoming celebrations here and in your previous work experience. Can you tell me about your experience with homecomings at universities with more established celebrations like Western or McMaster?

RH: I’ve come to find that homecoming celebrations are meant to reflect the values of their institution; for example, Western brands itself as “the best undergrad experience” and tries to provide one outstanding experience for all of its stakeholders. McMaster also has a long tradition of homecoming and theirs has been athletics driven for years. Their brand is “colour your passion” and everyone wears Marauder maroon. Interestingly, both started as very grassroots, bottom-up celebrations as students decided they wanted to celebrate and show off their school pride. Only then did they become institution-wide celebrations. I think that’s what we’ve seen happen here, starting as a so-called Facebook phenomenon and then growing to what we will see this year, and especially next year when Brock celebrates its 50th anniversary.

BN: Why do people want to celebrate Homecoming? What brings them back?

RH: I think it’s a need – I stress that word – to feel connected to something larger than themselves and to share a common goal; for example, the Vancouver Olympics were so important in Canada because they brought a sense of community and unity to a vast and multicultural country. I believe there is truly a human need for that sense of community.

BN: As Brock’s Homecoming becomes more of a tradition, what do you think Brock can do to enhance the experience?

RH: It really is about building community, being holistic but at the same time comprising the event of different parts. We should have mass participation events, with thousands of people attending, but at the same time have much smaller groups of a dozen or two dozen people meeting. Forty or 50 reunions of groups, like a club or a residence floor, those smaller reunions and experiences also have a place at a homecoming celebration.

BN: Do you feel that athletics is the main driver of a homecoming celebration?

RH: Not at all. It’s not the key to a homecoming, it just serves as a rallying point, as do all athletics; for example Trent has its homecoming based around a rowing regatta. Any type of athletics, whether it’s soccer or rugby or basketball or hockey can be an opportunity to engage, participate and have fun. Athletics can include everyone – students, alumni, the Brock community as a whole.

Isaac's Army members

Isaac's Army members

BN: What do you think is the next step in terms of establishing our Homecoming as a Brock tradition?

RH: Well in past years, it’s been very student driven. In my opinion, the past couple years, BUSU has killed it with Homecoming by having the packages available for students with red T-shirts and all the rest. Our student body has taken it from there. They’re the ones painting their faces, wearing the hats, buying the Brock socks. The next step is to have the rest of the community (alumni, staff, faculty and those in the Niagara Region) join the party. I would really encourage those groups to come to campus, experience the energy that has campus buzzing and feel the tradition.

We’d like to thank Robert for taking the time to talk with us. For more information, visit our Homecoming Athletics event page or visit Brock Athletics online. Be sure to follow Robert on twitter at @RobertHilson to stay up-to-date on Badgers Athletics and other exciting sports news in the Niagara Region.

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