Richard Sherman, football, #LeftShark: UVic and the real story of varsity athletics

Jess passing the ballIn the midst of all the Superbowl buzz, including the hype around “Left Shark,” a link pertaining to Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman talking about varsity athletics (specifically football) has been circulating around Facebook and has quite literally taken over my newsfeed. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s the whole article with links to the press conference itself.

Although I’m not a massive football follower, I do have a lot of respect for all the hard work they put in.

Scratch that. I have a lot of respect for any elite athlete — even those who don’t consider themselves elite but put in hours upon hours of training and practicing.

lwfkwSherman’s comments really hit home with me and many other student-athletes across all sports, proving the message is universal.

Being a varsity athlete is no easy task. It takes the skills of being a full time student and pairs it with also trying to be a full-time athlete outside your timetable. All of which requires a lot of energy, time management, organization, dedication, commitment and passion. I could add more to the list, but I think you get the idea.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that being a full-time student is easy. That’s not what I mean. I know many students who don’t participate in varsity sports but occupy their time in student clubs, organizations, or other events. However, I don’t believe that on average people really understand what being a varsity athlete truly means.

Sherman captures the essence of this varsity athletics life perfectly.

“I would love for a regular student to have a student-athlete’s schedule during the season for just one quarter or one semester and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can’t schedule classes from 2-to-6 o’clock on any given day. Show me how you’re going to get all your work done when after you get out at 7:30 or so, you’ve got a test the next day, you’re dead tired from practice and you still have to study just as hard as everybody else every day and get all the same work done.

Most of these kids are done with school, done with class by 3 o’clock, you’ve got the rest of the day to do as you please. You may spend a few hours studying, then you may spend a few hours at the library checking out books and doing casual reading, and then you may go hang out with friends and have a coffee. When you’re a student-athlete, you don’t have that kind of time. You wake up in the morning, you have weights at this time. Then after weights you go to class and after class, you go maybe try to grab you a quick bite to eat. Then after you get your quick bite to eat, you go straight to meetings and after meetings, you’ve got practice and after practice, you’ve got to try to get all the work done you had throughout the day you’ve got from your lectures and from your focus groups.”

In the past two years I’ve been at UVic, each year has been drastically different.

Allow me to elaborate.

After games against the US at training camp at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center in San Diego

After games against the US at training camp at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center in San Diego

In first year – it wasn’t the typical experience most people get out of high school. I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the centralized Canadian Women’s 7s Rugby Program. In short, I got to live the life of a professional athlete for a year.

It was an unique experience. I learned an incredible amount about myself from training with the best of the best on and off the field, pushed myself past limits I could never have imagined and made memories to last. However, on a schedule that was full-time (in the sense we trained everyday from 7:30-4, six days a week), it was grueling. I tried to balance school on top of that but failed miserably. Once I got the hang of it, I ended up taking four courses over the year but I can understand Sherman’s viewpoint. When you’re being paid to play a sport, your academics come second to your sport.

IMG_7795On the other hand, second year has been significantly different so far in the fact that I’m no longer centralized and I’m getting to enjoy the university experience–but don’t let that fool you into believing I am no longer training full time. Or for that matter, every other single varsity athlete, including my talented teammates.

We may not be paid like professionals since primarily we’re at school to learn, but we train like them. We share the same passion, we set goals, and we strive to become better on and off the field.

It’s a hectic lifestyle that leaves you exhausted more times than not, but the satisfying feeling of succeeding with the teammates who have pushed you so hard and you’ve worked so hard with through the months makes everything worth it.

IMG_7792Right now while the team prepares for the National 7s Championship that is going to be held in Langford in March is another big training push. I’m coming back from a stress fracture in my foot so my schedule is slightly different in the fact that I’m not currently practicing yet so here was my past week:

  • Monday → Weights (2 hours) Anaerobic Bike Workout (35 minutes)
  • Tuesday →24 minute steady state run progression, Core workout, Physiotherapy
  • Wednesday → Weights (2 hours), Core, Simple skills – passing
  • Thursday → 27 minute steady state run progression, Physiotherapy
  • Friday  → Weights (2 hours), Core
  • Saturday → 30 minute steady state run progression

The girls who are practicing had a schedule similar to this:

  • Monday → Practice (1.5 hours), Weights
  • Tuesday → Conditioning Games + Practice (1.5 hours)
  • Wednesday  Practice (1.5 hours), Weights (2 hours)
  • Thursday → Track Conditioning (1.5 hours)
  • Friday → Weights
  • Saturday → Conditioning

All of this training is done while balancing 3-5 courses, tutorials, labs, clubs, coaching, and work on top of everything else.

Being a varsity athlete has been compared to holding a full-time job alongside the challenges of school, and I finally understand that analogy. You dedicate everything you can to academics as well as your chosen sport. But at the end of the day you do it because you love it.

 Celebrating our win against UBC to book our tickets to Canada West Final Four!"

Celebrating our win against UBC to book our tickets to Canada West Final Four!”

Not everyone has National or International aspirations, but everyone aspires to become the best they can be. I was once told to surround myself with like-minded people and I’ve found that with the Vikes.

At UVic we’re extremely fortunate to have an Athletic Department and University that supports varsity athletes beyond imagination. I consider myself pretty lucky. If you don’t believe me, check out the investment that has been put into the creation and building of CARSA, a building completely dedicated to high performance athletics and leading healthy lifestyles.

Whether you’re an incoming athlete considering UVic, a current one, or just someone reading this out of interest. Don’t be intimidated. It all works out in the end – in the words of our school sponsor Nike “Just do it.” You won’t regret it.

Embrace the challenge.


You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Rachel Francois says:

    LOVE this!!!