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Golden Bears and Pandas welcome new members to the Block A family

The Block A Club welcomed 106 new Golden Bears and Pandas athletes at their annual Block A ceremony.

Every year, the University of Alberta Golden Bears and Pandas varsity athletics hold the Block A sweater ceremony. Varsity athletes completing their third year of eligibility receive a green sweater with a bold, yellow letter “A” on the chest.

This year’s ceremony, held on April 4, honoured 106 new members to the Block A Club. Associate Athletic Director Tawana McLeod was the emcee. According to McLeod, the club represents the tradition of being part of something larger than the individual.

From 2000-06, McLeod was a student-athlete on the Pandas Volleyball team, and a part of the Block A Club herself.

“Regardless of the sport that you play, [or] where you’ve come from, you’re part of a family now,” McLeod says

The Block A sweater ceremony dates back to 1932, when a small number of male athletes received sweaters. In 1989, the ceremony expanded to also include Pandas athletes. Student-athletes are eligible to receive the sweater as long as they are full-time students, part of a varsity sport at the U of A, and have completed their third year of eligibility with the Bears or Pandas.

“[The sweater] represents the Golden Bears and Pandas family. Regardless of the sport that you play, [or] where you’ve come from, you’re part of a family now,” McLeod said.

Usually, awards ceremonies take place at the end of a season or near graduation, according to McLeod. She said the timing of this ceremony created a moment of reflection for students.

“It allows you to take a step back and be present about what you’ve done in those three years, but also what you want to do next,” McLeod said. “When you graduate and leave, you still have [the sweater] as an alumni. When you wear it to a game or an event, you see all these Block A sweaters surrounding you. You have that shared relation.”

Golden Bears and Pandas working to honour eligible Panadas alumni who did not receive sweaters

Because Pandas athletes were first included in the inauguration 57 years after the ceremony was first held, many Pandas alumni have not received a sweater. The Golden Bears and Pandas have made an effort to honour these individuals by holding alumni events where former Pandas athletes receive sweaters.

In September, the final alumni Block A sweater ceremony will take place. This event will honour eligible alumni who have not yet received a sweater. Those who can’t attend can have the sweater mailed to them.

“Our intention is to make sure that we try and reach as many of those alumni as possible so that they get what they have earned and deserve,” McLeod said. 

Although other Canadian post-secondary institutions have started similar traditions, McLeod said nothing goes as far back as the Block A Club.

“It’s not only a student-athlete award. It’s an alumni tradition of that shared experience,” she said.

“It’s important for us. It’s unique across Canada.”

Lale Fassone

Lale Fassone is studying media studies and linguistics. She served as the Deputy Arts and Culture Editor in spring 2022, Deputy Sports Reporter for 2023-2024 and Deputy News Editor in Summer 2023 and 2024. When she isn’t procrastinating her mountain-high workload or when not trying to learn yet another language, she can be found potentially working, writing, reading, or eating strawberries while watching the same rom-com over again.

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