Tim Maloney knew coming into his new role at Dalhousie that it wasn’t going to be easy.
But after seeing the outstanding results of Dalhousie’s varsity athletic programs, it looks like Maloney was able to fit right in.
Dal’s varsity teams put on their best performance in 10 years. Eight conference championships, seven coach of the year awards, nine all-Canadians, and 88 academic all-Canadians are just a few of this year’s accomplishments.
For Maloney, the team’s successes are simply an indication of their work ethic and drive.
“I’m amazed by them every day,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have very good student athletes who care about their sport, care about the classroom and care about the community.”
Coming into his new gig, Maloney set his expectations low, and focused on settling in to the black and gold environment.
“My goal was to do a lot of listening and learning, and help where I could,” said Maloney. “So from a performance perspective, I didn’t have any crazy expectations for us. But certainly, the goal for us in the short term and the long term is excellence.”
But it was clear from the beginning that particular Dal squads were special. Mainly, the men’s volleyball team that looked nearly identical to the team the year before the won the AUS title. But also both of Dal’s swimming and track and field teams, who showed utter dominance in previous seasons and were showing no signs of slowing down.
And, for the most part, the teams lived up to their high expectations.
Of all the titles Dal teams received this year, Maloney finds it difficult to choose one championship as his favourite.
“It’s a nice problem to have – trying to decide,” he said. “I wouldn’t say one stands out as my favourite. I love winning. But the men’s basketball run was pretty magical.”
Maloney, who was a member of the ’96 Dal men’s basketball team that beat UPEI in double overtime at the AUS championships, says he has a special connection to Dal’s basketball program. He said his favourite part of this year’s win wasn’t the banner, but the fan engagement.
“We’re very fortunate to have very good student athletes who care about their sport, care about the classroom and care about the community.”
“When you storm the floor three days in a row, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “It was fun to see our student athletes surprise a lot of people in what was really a captivating performance all weekend.
Taking things a step further
We’ve seen several Dal varsity teams thoroughly dominate in the AUS, but at the national level, the Tigers just aren’t found at the top of the podium.
Maloney says that’s nothing to worry about, and attributes the exhibition competition the teams participate in as main factor in improving on the national stage.
“(Men’s volleyball) had the opportunity to play some of the teams from out west, which is really crucial to their ability to compete at the national level,” he said.
For the teams that aren’t quite on an equal playing field with the top teams in the AUS, including both of Dalhousie’s hockey teams, Maloney sees the importance in taking things one step at a time.
The women’s hockey team, which fell short of making the postseason last year, were able to skid past the Saint Thomas Tommies in the first round of the playoffs this year, only to be taken down in a hard fought battle against the top-ranked St. FX X-Women in the next round.
Maloney said it’s important for people to notice those changes in Dal’s lower ranked teams. “Winning’s hard,” he said. “It’s easy to focus on championships, but it’s also important to notice and recognize the improvements.”
Leaving the past behind
Dalhousie’s women’s soccer and basketball teams had postseasons that could easily be considered disappointing. Women’s soccer was eliminated in a tight 1-0 loss to the Acadia Axewomen in the semifinals, while women’s basketball also fell short in the semis, losing 70-59 to UPEI.
“Basketball and soccer are two very, very competitive conferences,” he said. “It’s important to enjoy it when you win, but it’s also important to keep some of the perspective when you don’t and take away some good things.” Men’s hockey also had a disappointing season, as they were unable to make the postseason for the
“I think there’s a foundation there we can build upon,” he said. “They’re a great group of kids that play really hard, and I think that as we add talent to that group, the future looks a lot brighter.”
Putting community on top
Maloney pushes for Dalhousie athletes to be successful in three different components. Obviously, athletics and academics. But also, community.
One of the flagship programs that has gained momentum in recent years is Dalhousie’s Special Tigers program, which is a student-run program for children with learning disabilities to get involved and stay active.
Maloney has loved watching the program expand, not just with the kids, but with the student ath- letes.
“I think it’s one of those great programs where our student athletes probably get as much out of it, if not more, than the kids participating,” he said.
“It’s important for the leadership skills of our athletes, it’s important for the kids, and it’s also important for our brand in the community.”
With all the success Dalhousie athletics have had this year, Maloney said it’s created two streams of activity. One is to maintain the success the teams’ have had, and the other is to improve upon it.
“The bar’s set pretty high. We’re always striving for excellence. As great a year as we had, there’s still lots of room for improvement.
“It’s unrealistic to think we’ll win 14 of 14, but when I was here as an athlete, we won 11. And that’s the gold standard.”