Student-Athletes Rise To The Challenge

Brett Hope - Photo by Buffalo State College Athletics

Brett Hope – Photo by Buffalo State College Athletics

From the time any child starts playing organized sports, the challenge of balancing athletics and academics comes into play. The real test for most however, begins for athletes who advance to the college or University level.

“Balancing sports with my education can be very difficult,” says Chatham’s Melissa Smyth, a John McGregor graduate who is studying Drama in Education at the University of Windsor, and also plays on the Windsor Lancers’ varsity women’s volleyball team.

At the forefront of a student-athlete’s struggles, is time management. University athletes can spend 2-6 hours per day practising and training, and are away most weekends for games. Finding the time to complete the necessary training, practice, and competition, as well as attend classes, study, and finish assignments, can be daunting.

“The challenge would be finding the time at home to get all the homework done, plus maintain the energy to put in another long day the next day and compete every day in practice. It is demanding physically and mentally,” explained Blenheim’s Brett Hope, who plays NCAA hockey for the Buffalo State College Bengals.

“One of the biggest challenges for a student-athlete is definitely time management,” echoed Loyola University lacrosse player Zach Herreweyers, a Wallaceburg product who was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team in his freshman season. “You’re always on such a tight schedule every single day, which makes it tough to find time for the work to be done.”

Despite the time crunch, being with their team can also have a positive impact in relieving the stress for athletes, says Chatham’s Ashley Hosfeld, who plays women’s volleyball for the Fanshawe College Falcons.

“It sometimes gets hectic, but playing a sport is also a temporary way out of all the stress that comes with school; you can check out for a couple of hours and have some fun with your teammates.”

Athletes, however, aren’t alone after they leave home for an education, and athletics. To reach this point in their career after all, these athletes learned the importance of balancing athletics with their studies in high school, and now, they have the support of numerous school programs for post secondary student-athletes.

“Our team offers study hall all the time and the coaches are really good in helping you find the person you need when you have an academic conflict,” explained Hope.

“Loyola offers any support you need,” says Herreweyers. “Whether it’s a tutor or even the writing centre looking over your papers and helping you make it better.”

Sometimes, it isn’t just the programs, which are also offered by Windsor and Fanshawe, it’s an athlete’s own teammates who are the biggest help, as Smyth and Hosfeld explain.

“My team is always open for study help or school help,” says Smyth. “Especially if you’re a freshman, a lot of the juniors and seniors try to help out as much as we can because we know how hard it can be.”

“Our teammates are very supportive since they want you on the court with them working toward a medal. We always encourage each other to study or do that little assignment,” explained Hosfeld.

Despite the stress and challenges however, the rewards, and experience of being a student-athlete, and competing at the college or university level, is one these athlete agree, they wouldn’t change.

“My experience has been amazing,” stated Smyth, who has also competed in track at Windsor. “Very stressful, but also very rewarding. I don’t know what I would do without it. My life would slow down a lot.”

“Overall I think playing a sport while doing school is amazing. It is demanding, but it is helping me prepare myself for the real world when I’m done with school,” added Hope.

For those willing to face the challenge, it appears being a student-athlete is worth the work. “It really makes getting my education more enjoyable,” says Hosfeld.

For that reason, Chatham-Kent student-athletes will continue to work to compete in post secondary athletics, and experience sport and academics, according to Herreweyers, in an unbeatable way,

“There’s no better way to experience the sport you love doing it this way.”

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