Week 51: Theresa Hanson

Athletic Director


Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 


I was born and raised in the wonderful community of Trail, BC. Nestled in the mountains in the beautiful West Kootenays of British Columbia, known not only for the Tech Cominco industry, but also for its celebrated sports and recreation activities – it continues to be a great sports town, and was an amazing community to grow up in.


I grew up surrounded by a supportive, close-knit family. My parents have always been and continue to be incredible role models for me, and family has also been, and continues to be important. My dad was a long time high school teacher and the senior boys basketball coach – he was instrumental in getting me involved in sports and teaching me the value of sport at an early age. He has been and continues to be my guiding light with a positive attitude entrenched in all the right ethics, morals and values. My mom is without a doubt my biggest cheerleader. She is the consummate professional both in competency and how she carries herself, and taught me the values of integrity and class in all that I do.


I tell you this because that was the house that built me – it is my solid foundation from which I have established my career on.

Participating in multi-sports growing up was amazing. We were encouraged to get involved in sport and extracurricular activities. Swimming, gymnastics, track and field, softball, baseball, high school sports and basketball – I was offered incredible opportunities. In high school I concentrated on track & field and basketball – and it was basketball that earned me a varsity scholarship to play at LC State College in Idaho, where I graduated with a business degree.


And it was basketball that introduced me to my husband Kevin, both just out of university, where we met coaching at Simon Fraser University.


Sport has provided me with amazing experiences. I have had the privilege of being part of three remarkable institutions in my sport administration career – Langara College, UBC and now SFU. Being named to the City of Trail Hall of Champions and the CCAA Hall of Fame have been personal rewards that I am most proud of and truly signify the passion and respect I have for sport. Representing Canada on the international stage as Chef de Mission at the 2013 FISU Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia was an experience I will never forget.


So yes, sport has had a profound positive influence on my life, the path I chose and the person I have become.


What is something you learned by being on a team? How does that apply to your work?


There is no better learning experience than being part of a team, and recognizing that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. Sport supports positive mental health, improves social skills – you may not recognize that at the time, but I honestly believe it truly provides

the foundation for lifetime success. Team work, friendship, work ethic, celebrating success and learning from mistakes is all part of team sport. There is no greater accomplishment than when you can achieve something as a team.


Success is all about people. In sport, in business and in relationships.


How has sport helped you be a better leader? or How do you define leadership?

Instagram: theresahanson11

Twitter: @TheresaHansonAD

I have built my professional career on the foundation of professionalism, integrity, respect and loyalty and believe they are essential ingredients for success no matter the career you choose. Sport taught me that. The highs and lows of sport, the tenacity and conviction to see it through, and for me, those values have provided the essential ingredients for success within the collegiate athletics and recreation profession.


I think leadership is about people. The foundation and the true substance of any successful organization is its people. Build a great team. Surround yourself with good people, who are knowledgeable and passionate. Treat them well. Show them respect. Inspire them. Cultivate a strong working relationship, encouraging professional development at all levels, and empower them to take pride in their jobs. This will build morale and collegiality, leading to higher productivity, employee satisfaction and retention of good people, and ultimately will lead to program success.


Have you experienced failure or a barrier that you have learned from? From that experience, what advice would you share with young athletes?


Yes, absolutely yes. Life isn’t always easy. And there will be curveballs thrown in along the way. But if you have a strong foundation, a strong values and support system and the conviction to believe in yourself and never give up, that will help you tackle any obstacles that get in your path.


I am blessed to have an amazing husband who has built a remarkable men’s basketball program at UBC, and a beautiful, talented daughter who inspires me every day. They are my anchors, my unconditional support.


One of my most proudest moments in my career was being named Sr. Director of Athletics and Recreation at Simon Fraser University. I was the first female to be named Athletic Director in the history of SFU, and proved to myself that the 20 years of experience – both the good and the not-always-easy – came with a reward, at a time when I wasn’t so sure. And that reward is the amazing opportunity to steward an athletics and recreation program that is rich with tradition and history, unique as Canada’s only NCAA team, and full of amazing people.


My philosophy on athletics is simple – if we – together – can make a positive difference in the lives of our student-athletes we have done our job well.


Participation in sport provides opportunities for personal growth in terms of attitudes and experiences that lead to successful careers and citizenship. Get involved. Stay involved. Strive to be better today than you were yesterday. Stay grounded. Believe in yourself. Be prepared. And never give up!