What does it mean to be a Mariner? Beyond simply donning a jersey on game night, making the buzzer-beater shot to win the game, or cheering from the stands, what are the values and cultural tones being transmitted by the program? Ask the players, coaches, and fans, and they’ll tell you it’s the prioritizing of three things: academics, athletics, and community engagement.  

Balancing the daily grind of athletic competition and the responsibilities that come with student life can be challenging. The Mariners Athletic Department insist that student athletes make academics their top priority. 

“Our first role here is to help student athletes graduate, learn, and experience, so we play a big role in that: making sure it isn’t just about being an athlete, but a student athlete, and ‘student’ comes first—student before athlete,” says Stephanie White, athletic director of the Mariners program.

Coaches work with athletes off the court to ensure they stay on top of their course work. Academic support and frequent check-ins with coaches and peers encourage student athletes to embrace all aspects of university life. The academic experience has helped tremendously both on and off the court at VIU.  

“We don’t want people to hide how they’re doing, we want to celebrate how we’re doing in school,” says White.

Success off the court comes in a variety of other forms as well, whether through organized fundraisers, charitable endeavors, or campus events.  

“Often you see that connection where people who are active and involved in sports will also be active in other ways. They might coach younger kids, and they do see that service at play in the community,” says White.

Athletes like Megan Rosenlund, a five-year veteran of the women’s volleyball program who recently signed a contract with a pro club in Copenhagen, Denmark, understands this concept better than anyone.

“Creating relationships and buying into the Mariners culture is huge,” she says.

Avneet Brar, assistant coach of the Men’s Basketball team, grew up in Nanaimo, would “come to Mariners games all the time,” and remembers how players would take trips to his elementary school to promote the program.

The recently held “Rock the VIU” celebration, where students had a chance to interact with athletes representing the Mariners program, is another example of community engagement and culture building that feeds into the feelings of success and ownership players and students have towards the school.

Getting the Mariners program into the hearts and minds of the students and the community as a whole is something Matt Carter, announcer for VIU, knows a thing or two about.

“Even if you don’t know the sport very well, the level of competition is very entertaining. Students get in for free so there is no cost, and it’s one of the few places to get food late night on campus,” says Carter.

Do you want to go downtown on the weekend? Come to the game from 6-10 pm, then go after—just make it part of a full night.  

“Community members that do come out and get it, they’re fans for life. I’d like to think that the Mariners program is a great source of pride here in Nanaimo,” says Carter.

There are many ways to embrace Mariners culture.  Whether you’re an athlete wearing the jersey on game day or a student in the stands, we all benefit from the success of our university.

Being a Mariner means a variety of things to a variety of people. To the student athletes, being a Mariner requires dedication on the court, and in the classroom. As a coach, being a Mariner means carrying on the tradition of success that came before you, but even more importantly, shaping young athletes into outstanding individuals. As fans, whether a student or not, we show our Mariners pride by wearing the colors, getting loud at games, and getting involved in our community.

“You don’t have to love sports to be a Mariner, and support the institution. We always need volunteers for all kinds of things,” says White.  

Whether you have a keen interest in business operations, a love for the sciences, or you’re a math wiz, the Mariners program welcomes all.

“There are so many things, if you love community work, and you want to engage with the community or put your skills to work and build your resume, come drop by,” says White.

The Mariners program has had a profound impact on individuals, the school, and the community as a whole. Athletics can be powerful and transcendent. It can bridge gaps, bring people with relatively nothing in common together, and gives those who participate unbelievable life-altering opportunities. The Mariners program exemplifies this, through hardworking individuals with a clear allegiance to a core set of values and principles which have proven to be a winning formula.