IF 1,000 JOIN THIS GROUP, THEY MIGHT WIN

In Sports /

By Whitney Wager

After a 2006 season riddled with turmoil, the Ryerson figure skating team plans on making a name for itself. Not only on the ice, but also through the social networking website Facebook.

Robyn Doolittle, the team’s head coach and manager, needed to fill out the team at the beginning of the year. So Doolittle — the former Editor-in-Chief of the Eyeopener — and the rest of the 14 skaters devised some fresh ideas on how to attract talent, both skaters and coaches, to the team.

One of the team’s recurring ideas was to utilize Facebook.

Emily Biskup, a first-year business management student, skated competitively for eight years — about 40 hours a week — but quit last year because the pressure was too much.

When looking at universities to attend, Biskup saw that Ryerson had a skating team and joined the Facebook group.

She then sent an e-mail to the team asking for more information and eventually decided to come to Ryerson, in large part because of the team.

“It was kind of a recruitment for the new millennium,” Doolittle said of her Facebook recruiting gameplan.

Three of of this year’s eight recruits were attracted to the team through the team’s Facebook group “I (Heart) Ryerson Figure Skating.”

“Facebook was something that was booming at the time, and it just felt natural to use it,” said Janean Bruhn, a fourth-year interior design student and team veteran.

Bruhn is from Alberta, but chose to come to Ryerson because of it’s figure skating team that she had discovered online. She thinks that once people realize that Ryerson has a team, they will include it in their university decision-making process.

Though scouting is a traditional recruitment strategy for most varsity teams at Ryerson, it was never really a technique the team employed.

Figure skaters usually peak in their teens, Doolittle said.

By the time they reach university, their careers are winding down and they are not necessarily still trying to pursue those careers into adulthood.

“We counted on finding those with competitive experience to find their initial love of it,” said Doolittle, who joined nearly 30 groups relevant to figure skating on Facebook and informed the members that Ryerson did indeed have a figure skating team.

“We were planting seeds that have never been planted before.”

Last year the team faced several obstacles in developing a squad. The practice rink, Moss Park Arena, suffered a major fire at the beginning of the season, limiting their on-ice practice time.

Months later, two of the team’s coaches resigned, leaving the prgram’s future up in the air. The squad ended up finishing last in the provincial championship which the Rams hosted at the end of the season.

Doolittle acknowledges that at this point, it is unrealistic to have skaters come to Ryerson simply because of the team, but she hopes that it will play a part in their decisions. “If people know we’re here, they’ll want to come out,” she said.

To ensure the quality of the skaters they attract, the coaches will still hold tryouts and make sure to gather enough information on the skaters’ backgrounds.

“It was just about getting bodies on the ice, and the coaches could decide from there,” Bruhn said.

Apart from Facebook, Doolittle is using several other methods to draw attention to the team.

The team has distributed pamphlets around campus and in various figure skating shops around the GTA.

The team is active in fundraisers, participating in the Run for Breast Cancer at the end of the month and holding various pub nights at the Ram in the Rye.

It’s all a part of raising visibility on campus and being active in the recruiting process.

“We’re not looking back anymore,” said Bruhn. “We’re branding ourselves with a new image and a new attitude.”

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