Athlete Academy becoming varsity athlete pipeline

    Over the past two years, 11 graduates of the Academy have committed to University rugby programs, including five who have stayed with the Pandas

    By Connor Hood on June 7, 2019

    In just two years, the Green and Gold Athlete Academy has become a factory for turning out university-level student-athletes. Over the past two summers, 11 graduates of the program have committed to University rugby programs, including five who have stayed with the Pandas. 

    "When we first started the Athlete Academy two years ago, the main goal of the female rugby training group was to have graduates move into post-secondary education, and hopefully get a scholarship opportunity with a varsity rugby program," said Pandas head coach Matt Parrish.

    "Selfishly I would want all the girls to come to the Pandas Rugby Program, but realistically we know that was not going to happen.  For this past year, to have four graduating student-athletes from the Academy and have all of them offered a spot on varsity rugby programs, three with the Pandas, I could not be happier or prouder."

    The Green and Gold Athlete Academy features intensive sport-specific training complimented by sport conditioning sessions in the University of Alberta’s Sport Performance Centre where Academy athletes train alongside current Golden Bears and Pandas. Classroom sessions featuring topics such as sport psychology, coaching and injury management are also part of the curriculum, and are taught by members of the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation.

    The Green and Gold Athlete Academy currently operates training groups in female rugby, male rugby and female hockey with additional sports to be added in the future.

    In 2018, graduate Hannah Martin joined the Pandas rugby program, becoming the first to make the jump from Athlete Academy to the Pandas. Shanna Walchuk and Shelby Vadnais (Lethbridge), Nicole Simoneau (UBC), Kianna Kozak (Queen's) and Jaiden Weinrauch (St. FX) also earned spots on various teams throughout Canada. 

    This summer, graduates Janelle AmyotteMelina IoannidesCassie Jorgenson, and Kate Manning have all signed with the Pandas, marking one of their best recruiting classes in program history. In addition, Stephanie Chan-Dunford was signed by the Lethbridge Pronghorns this spring. 

    "I know these girls will be better prepared to make an immediate impact within the squad this season," continued Parrish. "They already know the University, the returning players, the coaches and the standards within our program. I can't wait to see them perform with our club!"

    The 2019 Canada West Rugby schedule will be announced on June 18th, with the Pandas expected to play a pair of conference games at Foote Field this fall. 

    For more information on the Athlete Academy, visit