Dec. 17, 2018

A mischievous mishap in high school helped prepare for a lifetime of staying active

Albert Iamartino new director for Active Living and Outdoor Centre

The temptation — a rotten banana in hand and a ceiling fan in the high school cafeteria — proved to be too much.

Unable to resist, the Grade 11 student launched the spoiled fruit upward with predictable results.  "It went all over the Grade 12s which led to a trip to the vice-principal’s office," Albert Iamartino says now. "I had a lot of energy in those days, but I didn't really know how to channel it."

Providing an immediate and non-negotiable nudge in the proper direction? Henry Wise Wood's vice-principal.

Passion for rugby

"He told me that I'd better go play rugby," recalls Iamartino. "I asked, 'Why rugby?' And he said, 'They don't make any cuts in rugby, so it would be a good sport to put your energy in.'"

So ordered, Iamartino showed up for rugby tryouts and, soon after, fell in love with the sport.

Yeah, I ended up being not too bad," he says. "I always wanted to play some type of contact sport, so I think it was the push I needed. Otherwise, it might have never happened.

As a wing-fullback, Iamartino excelled, making rep teams, provincially and nationally, and eventually turning his passion for rugby into a seven-year elite and professional career. That adventure took him from New Zealand to San Diego to Italy to Scotland to Australia.

"Yes, very fortunate," says Iamartino, who, when he was home during the summer months, would suit up for the Calgary Mavericks in the Canadian Super League. "For myself, it was the best of it … travelling around the world, experiencing new cultures, and enjoying the sport I love.

"It's something I never really intended to happen, so I was quite fortunate."

Supporting a lifetime of health and wellness

And it's not a stretch to say that his favourite sport — or, indeed, the lobbed banana of that long-ago lunch period — has led him here, to the seat of the director of Active Living and Outdoor Centre in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. 

Albert and his family at Elbow Falls in Bragg Creek.

Albert and his family at Elbow Falls in Bragg Creek.

Iamartino, on the job since Oct. 22, doesn't downplay the role of rugby and team sport in his life — then or now. It continues to be an influence.

"You see how it leads up to the vision of leading an active life," says the 44-year-old. "It’s a lifestyle, you'll maintain as you progress into different chapters of your life, and that it’s not just about the physical benefits, but also the mental, social and spiritual. That's what we want to instil into all of our students, faculty and public. We want them to continue with their physical activities … to support a lifetime of health and wellness. You can call it cradle to the grave."