The newest addition to our Performance Sport family, the Head of Performance Sport, brings a wealth of experience and passion to Essex's progressive programme. With a 15-year journey in the sports industry, she has a rich background working with iconic teams like the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Toronto FC.

Having transitioned from professional sports to youth sports and then to post-secondary sports at the University of Victoria, she has a deep understanding of the landscape. Her roots in Game Operations for the Toronto Raptors reflects her commitment to enhancing the fan experience and she has already been captivated by the incredible energy at our very own Essex Rebels games.

"Sport is my passion, the opportunity to lead the Performance Sport program here at Essex is an honour. I'm proud to be able to have my son grow up in these facilities and watching these programs and hope that sport can have that same impact on him!"

Introducing: Katherine Brien

Posing a few questions, here we find out more about the experience she brings and the impact we can expect to welcome to the performance programmes here at Essex.

Can you share some cool stuff you've done in your previous roles to enhance the overall performance and development of student-athletes, and how do you plan to apply these experiences to elevate the performance sport programme at Essex?

My most recent role was at the University of Victoria as the Associate Director of Sport Compliance & Student Support. This role worked directly with student-athletes through our varsity program with the goal of providing the best overall student-athlete experience in Canada. Our team worked to create spaces for continual student-athlete growth through annual education, workshops and support on topics important to them. We saw a culture shift in the connection of our admin staff, coaches and student-athletes to a real understanding of what their experience was like and how we could support it. We provided a university support network for mental & physical health and points of connection for the athletes to share their experiences with each other through events & creating more transparency in our program.

I know the University of Essex already has an incredible performance sport culture and my hope to be able to take the learnings mentioned above to enhance what is already happening here. I want to be able to continue to provide the highest level of support to our athletes and to create that culture of growth that supports our student-athletes on & off the court, pitch, wherever they play!

Can you share a standout success story from your career, highlighting the positive impact it had on both the athletes and the overall programme?

In a previous role, I was the Executive Director of Basketball Nova Scotia, the provincial governing body for basketball in Canada. One of the biggest projects we undertook was creating, implementing, and monitoring the first Coach Screening Policy for all our province’s youth coaches. This policy was an output of our larger goal of creating positive basketball experiences and as part of that ensuring the basketball spaces are safe. While it’s difficult to measure the positive impact policy creation has on what’s happening in the gyms, the thought of coach accountability to police checks and annual education will ultimately help the game grow positively by creating more opportunities for sharing best practices and making fun at the forefront of youth basketball.

We know you've just arrived here, but any insight into your approach to ensure our university remains at the forefront of performance sport, keeping our sports scene fresh and opportunities exciting for our student-athletes?

I truly believe in the power of sport. I believe in its power for the student-athletes themselves and the intangible skills & memories and in its power to bring people together. Sport is unifying. It doesn’t matter your age, race, gender, nationality, sport is played all over the world and there are so many opportunities to be involved at Essex. As a student-athlete who competes in one of our BUCS teams or as a fan, part of our Tribe, you can join our community.

This early into the position, all I can say is that I hope that I can bring this energy & mindset into everything we do to make it as contagious as possible!

How do you see the intersection of digital marketing and athlete recruitment playing a pivotal role in the future success of our sports programs? What are you thinking when it comes to our online presence attracting top-tier talent?

Our digital marketing is incredible! As an Instagram consumer myself, the quality of our content is incredible and kudos to the team. Having a great presence is an opportunity for us to tell our story and bring people behind the scenes. Our digital content is fun and professional and that’s exactly what I’ve seen happening behind the scenes. I think it’s crucial for student-athletes to get that glimpse inside our program because word of mouth is still the best marketing, and the sports world is so well-connected. It also gives our athletes that chance to shine, which is key to highlighting the people we have and the community you could be part of if you join. 

As the Head of Performance Sport, how will you bring our athletes together in a way that feels like more than just a team, embracing community and engagement across the university? Who’s at the picnic?

Transparency and professionalism. I believe that honest and clear is kind. There will always be roadblocks in funding & human power to do everything that is on our list so I want to bring the student-athletes along on that journey to understand why we’re making decisions and bring them into the decision-making process as much as we can. This includes how we engage with the student & outside community and why it’s so important. Ultimately, I think this means I have to go to their picnic and listen while also creating spaces and events for us to come together and share. I’m not sure what this looks like yet but that’s the philosophy. 

Just to say a big thanks and welcome to Katherine. If you like what you’ve read, then don’t be shy. Say hello and let’s go picnic!

Discover how our Performance Sport programme at Essex can support your overall development.

Follow our student athletes’ journey on Instagram @uniessexperform

Sports scholarships and bursaries

We are committed to supporting and developing high performance athletes. Find out whether you could be eligible for a Sports scholarship or bursary, plus a range of additional benefits too when you join the University of Essex.