Ken Shields 

Nominee, 2020 Alumni Achievement Awards
Arts and Science Studies, 1965

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Working hard on and off the court, Ken Shields values giving back to the community. 


Canadian basketball legend Ken Shields has earned significant accolades after a storied career. He is a member of the Order of Canada and has been inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame, Canada Sports Hall of Fame and the Canada West Hall of Fame. He’s even received the James Naismith Award from Canada Basketball for his lifelong contributions to the sport. But, before all of that, he was a Mount Royal student.

Although he attended Mount Royal for only a short time, the experience plays a large part in Shields’ career. It was at Mount Royal College that Shields played under legendary basketball coach Jack Kenyon, who recruited Shields on a basketball scholarship. Shields says that school year (1964/1965), would be “the most fun year of my entire university experience.,” The two became lifelong friends and Shields would follow in Kenyon’s footsteps. 

His time as a university athlete led him to have a decorated coaching career that took him all over the world at the highest levels of amateur and professional sport.The Mount Royal experience was deeply important to Shields, setting him on a path that would make him one of the most successful coaches in the history of Canadian Interuniversity men’s basketball with the University of Victoria. 

Shields spent several years coaching professional basketball in Japan and Australia. He led the national teams of Canada, Australia, Japan, Georgia and Great Britain. Shields won many championships over the years and is a five-time Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) Coach of the Year. He also played a big role in establishing the National Coaching Institute in 1986, and the National High-Performance Training Centres in the sports of rowing, soccer, rugby, cycling, swimming and middle-distance running.

Kenyon’s wife, Joey, asked Shields to speak on behalf of all Kenyon’s former players at his celebration of life, which took place on the MRU court that is now named after him. “I learned a lot from him — about basketball and coaching — and I never quite realized the immensity of his impact until he passed away suddenly.” Shields still remembers how he crystallized what Kenyon told him: “Be classy and work hard.” 

He remembers in particular the sense of pride and responsibility that Kenyon instilled in his players. “He wanted us to be tremendous ambassadors for the school. He wanted us to win and make Mount Royal and our community proud of us. He taught us to be role models for the high-school teams in the community.”  

Giving back to the community has been important to Shields.. As head coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of Victoria, Shields and his players partnered with the Saanich police force to sponsor a basketball-related community program for at-risk schools in the area. The police, University and athletes cooperated further for a Vikings' home game attendance competition for Saanich high schools and the production of a series of Vikings player cards featuring anti-delinquency themes. The player cards can still be found on eBay and are prized possessions for many of those former students. For this beloved and effective program, he won the Solicitor General Community Safety and Crime Prevention Award in 1983.  

While Shields’ time at Mount Royal goes way back, it’s been important to him to keep connected with Cougar Athletics, and is firm friends with former Athletics Director Ron Wuotila and current Athletics, and Recreation Director Karla Karch.

Shields feels it’s important to do well in all the communities that you are in — your residence, your discipline, your classroom, your team. The community that he has built through his many years of playing and of coaching college athletes has endured throughout his long life. He states that Coach Kenyon had a tremendous impact on him in this regard; his relationships with his players are lifelong and special.  


 

Savannah Blakley 

Nominee, 2020 Alumni Achievement Awards
Advanced Athletic Therapy Certificate


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As a successful athletic therapist, Savannah Blakley has left her mark on the Okotoks sports community.


Savannah Blakley is an athletic therapist, business owner and mentor. In 2019, she added another title to her accomplishments: hero.

Canadian baseball writer and Hall of Famer Bob Elliott was speaking at the Okotoks Dawgs baseball banquet when he collapsed. Blakley, along with others at the event, relied on what she learned through her training at Mount Royal and helped save his life. “As an athletic therapist, we are trained to deal with these situations,” Blakley says. “However you never truly appreciate the skills you have or think you may have to put them to use.”

“We have three grandchildren in New Brunswick, ages nine, four and two. And every time I see them I think of the people who saved my life,” Elliott says, who nominated Blakley for this award. “Your school produced someone who put what she learned into practice without panicking. She should be celebrated.”

Blakley has worked with the Okotoks Dawgs baseball organization as an athletic therapist since 2012, gaining a sense of family from the coaches, front staff, management and players. At the same time, this small-town sporting organization developed into one of the foremost baseball academies in North America with athletes coming from all over the world to train in Okotoks. Blakley says when they then head off to college and in some cases to play in the minor or major leagues, she feels like she has been a part of that journey with them.

One of the most memorable moments of her career happened last year when the Okotoks Dawgs WCBL College baseball team won the championship after a 10-year drought.  

She is also the co-owner/operator of ProSport Therapy in Okotoks. Apart from treating patients within the clinic and providing a therapeutic outlet to the community, she works with various sports organizations within the Foothills MD, to provide on — and off — field therapy, implement concussion protocols, education and mentorship. 

What resonates most with Blakley since attending Mount Royal is the influence she has had on young athletes and their development. She never thought of herself as a role model, but working with the Rocky Mountain Raiders Girls hockey teams, she became one for them. Over the years, many of the girls asked her questions about her profession and expressed an interest in being an athletic therapist. Blakley takes her role as a sounding board for them very seriously. 

Her advice is that you need to create your own career, and not let anyone tell you what to do. “I’m an athletic therapist — but I run a clinic, I work with sports teams, I coach kids in crossfit,” Blakley says. “I might have a specific job title, but that doesn’t prevent me from jumping in and doing other things.”