The U of A's Non-Playing, Totally Rad, Corporate Challenge Basketball Captain

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Image courtesy of Andrew Leitch (i.e. the one in the tie)I've been the university's non-playing Corporate Challenge basketball captain for a decade and it's an important job: I have to make sure everyone has the correct size of T-shirt and that they remember to bring their ONEcard on game night. Also, sometimes I bring water.

According to the official website, Corporate Challenge is about "employee interaction, teamwork, morale, pride, and health & wellness." I'm in favour of all those things, but for me it's just about the joy of spending a few hours every year with a terrific bunch of brilliant, talented and enthusiastic University of Alberta people.

One of my best players ever was Sandra Mandic; she was on my team for two tournaments before heading off to Stanford on a postdoctoral fellowship. She could do anything on the court, especially pass. With Sandra around you could be bent over tying your shoe and sound asleep and suddenly, as if by magic, you're standing under the hoop holding the ball. Nothing made her happier than seeing others do well. Greg was an aloof Russian grad student mathematician who could dunk over a redwood tree if he wanted to. Tall and immensely powerful, he didn't try to hide a cruel smile as he floated high over your head.

A strong wind could blow shooting guard, grad student and mother of twins Andreea Mohora all the way back to Romania, but when her hand is hot, she can hoist them in from anywhere. Colleen Hanrahan, from the RSO, is the steadiest of all. She hasn't missed a year and she understands the game as well as anyone.

We have profs too, when they can make it. Marvin Washington is a gentleman and ferocious player; Billy Strean is an athlete with a true love of sport, and Chris Herd brings much-needed height and an easy manner.

These are just a few of the dozens of players that have come and gone over the years. They come from every corner of campus and many corners of the world. Some were coached by the best coaches and some learned in the schoolyard. Some are genuinely talented and some just want to have fun, even if they don't make the team in the end.

I'll admit my practices can be desultory affairs. It's nearly impossible to get everyone together at one time: they're teaching a course, running an experiment, didn't see the email or they forgot their shoes. I don't fret about that so much anymore. We have mini practices, figure out a couple of plays, decide which shooters make the best match with which forwards, which women match up best with which men.

Make no mistake, on game night these people come out to win, and so does everyone else. It can be overwhelming to show up at the gym for the first time and see hundreds of players swarming the courts in their bright T-shirts: cops, prison guards, phys-ed teachers, gigantic men, lightning-quick women, intense ones, relaxed ones, a few ex-Pandas and Bears. I always get a bit nervous.

We meet outside the gym, stand around together in a group, pull on our T-shirts. At game time we form a circle, some of us meeting for the first time, and do a U of A cheer. Suddenly we're a team.

The games go fast. They can be close and tense. Red faced, sweating, everyone plays so hard. Some we win; some we lose. Eventually we're done for the year. We pack our stuff and drift off with spouse, friends, kids.

"Hey, you playing next year?"

"Sure. Yeah. Maybe. I dunno. Email me!"

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Corporate Challenge 2017

May 24 - June 11

Did Andrew pique your inner competitor? Lucky for you, the U of A Corporate Challenge team is looking for more captains!

We need people to lead:

• Eight Ball
• Golf
• Mountain Bike
• Near-Beer Pong
• Table Tennis
• Yard Games
• Scavenger Hunt

If you're interested, you can get in touch with Darlene Bryant at 780.492.6892 or Just make sure you let her know by April 5.

Leadership not your thing? No sweat. You can still get involved by joining an event, volunteering, or donating blood.

Check out our U of A Corporate Challenge site for more info.

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Andrew Leitch - Manager, Communications and Project Planning, Risk Management Services

Andrew has enjoyed numerous roles since joining the university in 2000, from marketing communications to policy development. Today he works in Risk Management Services where he supports planning, communications and change for the portfolio's five units. His basketball career peaked in high school in 1981; today he prefers yoga, golf and trotting on the treadmill.

U of A Corporate Challenge 2017

U of A Corporate Challenge 2017