New athletics manager, women’s varsity basketball coach and head baseball coach appointed
George Brown College has three new faces in the athletics department this fall. Melanie Gerin-Lajoie will oversee all operations as the new athletics manager; Fatih Akser will take charge of the women’s basketball varsity team; and Mark Cotgrave (featured in the last issue of The Dialog) has been hired as coach of the baseball team.
With a Bachelor of Commerce, Marketing and Economics from McGill University Gerin-Lajoie is an all-around powerhouse in academics as well as athletics. Gerin-Lajoie is the newly appointed athletics manager at George Brown College.
“It feels good to come back,” said Gerin-Lajoie who has also worked with the athletics department at McGill University as a game-day supervisor for intercollegiate sports. While studying at the university, Gerin-Lajoie bagged a basketball internship with Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. Later, she was promoted to a manager position, where she took charge of all programs for the Toronto Raptors, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto FC.
“Playing sports made a huge impact in my life, so if I can do anything to provide those opportunities to others that would be great. This type of job was what I wanted to get into,” said Gerin-Lajoie.
She noted that it is important for students to balance both academics and athletics. “Playing a sport and being busy with structured programming outside the program actually helped me staying more organized because you have very little time to deflect and say, ‘I will do that later.'”
Hailing from Turkey, Fatih Akser, who has been hired to take charge of the women’s varsity basketball team, started playing professional basketball at the age of 18. After moving to France and playing Division 1 basketball, he returned to Turkey where he began his career as a coach by participating in various professional club programs.
Akser came to Canada with the dream of becoming a police officer and studied a police foundation course at Humber College.
“I came here with the idea to learn for 5 to 6 months and then go back to Turkey, but thanks to certain people who helped me with the opportunity to work at the college level at Centennial College, things started to flow in from there.” Akser told The Dialog.
“I am glad that I got this opportunity, and now I am focusing on rebuilding this program (at George Brown).”
Akser worked at the university level for almost 10 years prior to coming to college and regarded ‘mindset’ as the main difference that he came across. “At the college level it is more academic-focused and getting the job right away but at university level it is more about getting involved socially,” explained Akser.
Akser shared his vision for college athletes: “I always want people to call them student athletes. My vision is to focus on their student identity first and basketball later because if you are able to take care of yourself then you can definitely take care of others on the ground.”
Akser has coached almost every level in Canada, from Ontario Colleges Athletic Association and Canadian Interuniversity Sport to club basketball with the Ontario Basketball Association and stints with provincial and national teams.