Red Deer College’s decision to retire the names of its sports teams after 56 years has many people royally upset.
As the school transitions to Red Deer University over the next few years, the administration has decided a rebranding and renaming of the Kings and Queens is necessary.
Kings volleyball alumnus Blake Henwood, a teacher at Hunting Hills High School, who also coaches volleyball at that level, said the change was a bombshell for most alumni.
He said in the past 24 hours, he’s had a lot of communication with volleyball alumni, as well as those from other sports.
“There’s some people who are definitely upset and disappointed that there wasn’t a little more information prior to what sounds like a decision that’s already been made,” Henwood said.
He said the sentiment he has heard is acknowledgment of the loss of what many athletes worked so hard to build at RDC as a lasting legacy – a tradition he feels is one of the strongest among Canadian colleges.
“It’s everything. As an alumnus, speaking on behalf of alumni that I’ve spoken to, we all feel we have an obligation to stand up and protect a really unique legacy that we’ve created and been a part of,” he said.
“I feel like these days, especially in a sporting world, creating a culture is hard to do. We have one of the best in Canada, and this is a potentially dangerous situation that can take a culture that was built and manufactured by so many people, and subsequently dissolve and destroy it.”
Jill DeJonge, who played Queens basketball and also coached with the program, feels the legacy is being unnecessarily torn apart by the name change.
“Obviously, there’s fond memories from my time spent with the program as a player and a coach … you’re a part of something that’s bigger than yourself and that’s special,” said DeJonge, who now coaches senior girls high school basketball in Red Deer.
“There’s so many things that you take away from it that you bring into life. The lessons you learn – how to work hard, and it’s all part of that legacy. When you go there, you’re trying to live up to a legacy that’s already set or build a legacy that will follow you. I just feel like it’s been taken away.”
Henwood added the Kings or Queens tradition means more than simply winning and losing.
“That golden rule that everyone is taught: be a good person and treating people the way you would like to be treated. But also being honourable and being respectful,” he said.
“Being as competitive as you can be without crossing the line and learning how to contribute to society in an effective, positive and meaningful way.”
For current athletes, although the change won’t take place until 2021-22, the unexpected announcement will still have an impact.
“I’m from Edmonton. Just hearing about Red Deer College and how much tradition and legacy and all the championships they have, and how strong the sports program is, I feel like I wouldn’t want to change that legacy as a King and Queen,” said third-year Queens basketball forward Lauren Cardinal, who would see the name change happen in her fifth and final year.
“I feel like we take a lot of pride as athletes being a King and Queen. We hold ourselves to high standards on the court and in the classroom. I feel like the crown means something. A lot more than it shows to the public.”
A petition has been set up online and already has close to 2,000 signatures. Those interested can check it out at www.change.org/p/the-general-public-keep-the-kings-and-queens-a-part-of-red-deer-university.
Thursday, RDC issued a clarification about its decision, saying the change was to fall in line with the tradition that many colleges and universities have, of using one name for both women’s and men’s sports.
The school will hold a rebranding focus group on Feb. 11, along with an online survey that will be available from Jan. 8 to Feb. 14, in order to address the rebrand.
To fill out the survey, visit rdc.ab.ca/about/community/university-journey/athletics-rebrand-survey.