From the Ground Up

The story of the Sport Science department, one step at a time.

From the Ground Up

The SPSC (initially Physical Education) department commenced operations in September 1970, as one of the first sectors comprising the newly established Douglas College. Upon its inception, the department had only one staff member and no permanent facilities – such as gyms and equipment rooms – available for faculty use.

Scroll through the milestones of the SPSC department throughout the decades, and see how the program evolved from one man teaching four courses catered towards university transfer to the multidisciplinary department with international outreach and a uniquely idiosyncratic, stand-alone identity today.


The 1970s mark the tentative beginnings of the PE department. Gert van Niekerk – the only staff member upon the department’s initial launch – runs the program in its entirety, from preparing the curriculum to hopping around the Lower Mainland, teaching courses and securing facilities for faculty use.

Read Gert’s role in starting the department here.

  • 1970s

  • 1970:

    Inception of the Physical Education department
    • no permanent facilities (gyms, tracks, storage rooms etc.)

  • 4 initial courses offered: Badminton, Basic Track and Field, Volleyball, Recreation

    • the curriculum is built around preparing students for transferring to other universities
  • 1971:

    Queen’s Park Arenex secured as facility for faculty use
    • Gert secures the Arenex for faculty use, rent-free, in exchange for renovating the building
  • Establishment of a two-year PE program

    • in 1970, only one year was recommended due to lack of available specialized courses
    • the change is concurrent with the standardization of the BC transfer guide across academic institutions
  • 1975:

    Physical Education” Changes to “Physical Education and Recreation”
    • gradual expansion beyond sport-specific content and growth into multidisciplinary fields surrounding sports, with increased attention turned towards recreation

In the 1980s, the department gains its first permanent facilities with the opening of the New Westminster campus, and sees a notable increase in faculty staff and students. The curriculum itself begins to grow into a comprehensive field involving considerations of theory, applied knowledge, inclusivity, and the scientific approach. The decade also marks the inception of the Sports Institute.


  • 1980s

  • 1980:

    The department starts the 80s with 50 available courses
    • significant expansion of program: increase in students, staff, courses
      • many more specialized courses, including: scuba diving, water safety, archery, curling, boxing, folk and social dance
  • Extensive expansion of course content

    • considerations of physiology, anatomy, development and motor learning, psychology etc. integrated into curriculum
    • new courses include: Intro to Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Sport Psychology, Motor Skill Acquisition, Injury Treatment
  • 1982:

    DC officially opens New Westminster campus
    • the faculty gains its first permanent facilities: a gym, equipment rooms, equipment managers
  • 1985:

    Inception of the Douglas College Sports Institute
  • The department ends the 1980s with 34 PE courses qualified for transfer towards major Canadian universities


The 1990s is a time of many “firsts” and innovative transformations in the department’s program development. The inception of the Coaching Diploma, in particular, becomes a point of distinction for both the department and the College as one of the first coaching-specific diplomas created in Canada.

  • 1990s

  • early to mid 90s:

    Integration of emotional intelligence into courses
    Increasing prominence of competency-based learning as teaching method
    • read about the implementation of EI and the CBL model here and here, respectively
  • 1990:

    Julia Ascough Physical Education Award introduced
    • first fund established by the PE & Recreation department to provide physical education-specific scholarships
  • 1991:

    “Physical Education and Recreation” changes to “Physical Education, Recreation, and Coaching”
    • change reflects the addition of coaching-specific courses within the program
  • 1994:

    Coaching Diploma introduced
    • major milestone: one of the first diplomas for coaching across Canada
    The Coaching Diploma receives an honourable feature in the 1994–1995 Douglas College Calendar introduction by William Day, President
  • 1996:

    David Lam Campus opens in Coquitlam
    • the department doubles course offerings with the new location, offering first- and second-year courses on both campuses
    • the Coaching Diploma program relocates to David Lam in favour of the new facilities
  • 1999:

    SPSC Diploma introduced

The 2000s see the department’s continued emergence into its own identity as it introduces new programs and refines its curricular designs. The establishment of the department’s first four-year degree – the Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching (BPEC) program – becomes the highlight of the decade.


  • 2000s

  • 2001:

    Physical Education, Recreation, and Coaching” changes to “Sport Science”
    • change applied after department deliberation around offered pedagogy, as well as research on actions taken by other institutions
    • reflects the increasing recognition of physical education and the study of movement as an important area of scientific inquiry
  • 2003:

    The provincial board announces permission for colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees
    • administrative step towards the introduction of the BPEC degree in 2007
  • 2004:

    Coaching Diploma merges into SPSC Diploma
    • change applied as the Coaching Diploma’s 20-person limit was deemed unsustainable in the face of increasing enrollment demand
    • integration of coaching content into the SPSC Diploma
  • 2005:

    Graduate Diploma in Physical Education introduced
    • currently called Graduate Diploma in Physical and Health Education
  • mid 20s:

    Increase in faculty members with subject specializations
    • gradual recruitment of faculty members who specialize in a particular subject as opposed to general practitioners
    • shift occurs in preparation for the new BPEC degree, whose curriculum requires additional levels of specialized expertise
  • 2007:

    Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching degree introduced
    • major milestone: one of the first four-year degrees introduced at the College
    • the first graduating class walks the stage in 2009


The department continues its growth in the 2010s, expanding in faculty and student population as well as offered programs and curriculum. The introduction of the Sport Science Experiential Education Program (SSEEP) and consistent opportunities for international exchange offer new, enriched learning experiences outside the classroom.

  • 2010s

  • 2010:

    Inception of the Sport Science Experiential Education Program (SSEEP)
  • 2013:

    Inception of the Switzerland field school exchange
    • exchange hosted every other year through the rest of the decade
  • The department ends the 2010s with roughly 25 faculty members
  • Programs now offered:
    SPSC Diploma
    Graduate Diploma in Physical and Health Education
    Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching (BPEC)
    Minor in Physical Education and Coaching (MNPEC)

“My last years at Douglas – it was just a joy to watch all these new, young faculty [members] at work, and taking the program to higher and higher levels.”

Gert van Niekerk

They [Gert, Robin, Tim, Alan, Chris] were tremendous…[W]hat we’ve learned from them we’ve been able to carry forward…We’ve never lost those, even though we brought in new faculty and we’ve grown and exploded in size…And it’s student-centered through it all.”

Kathryn Duff