The national “Coach of the Year” award for women’s rugby now carries the name of a U of G professor. Handed out annually following the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) championship to the winning team’s coach, the honour is now called the “Jim Atkinson Award” in recognition of his contribution to the women’s sport in Canadian universities.
The inaugural Jim Atkinson Award was handed out earlier this month to Graeme McGravie of Concordia University.
After almost 20 years as head coach of the University of Guelph men’s team, Atkinson was instrumental in establishing women’s rugby as a Gryphon varsity club sport in 1992 and coached the women to an unbeaten record for two seasons.
When rugby was given official status by Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in 1994, Guelph won the first two OUA titles under head coach Wayne Stobie before Atkinson once again took over the reins in 1996. Atkinson ran the team for 11 seasons, winning six gold, three silver and two bronze medals in OUA competition and a gold, two silver and a bronze at the CIS nationals, the gold coming at the inaugural championship in 1998.
Atkinson stepped down as head of the program in 2006, but has been involved in a minor role as an assistant to current head coach Colette McAuley.