University sports makes for better students and higher grades

Balancing the demands of university academics with competitive team sports can be no easy task.

Athletes who play a sport competitively at university must be enrolled in courses. On top of team practices and weekly games they must also stay on top of their school work.

With numerous hours being spent on the court and in the classroom – there is no time to be lazy.

Spencer Carless, a former post-secondary volleyball player with Concordia University College of Alberta, said juggling academics and athletics is all about developing a routine to fit both into the busy schedule that comes with it.

“Having a roughly two-hour practice every day and games nearly every weekend, takes a lot of time out of the week,” Carless said. “It obviously leaves less time for school work. So you just learn to budget time better and fit it in where you can.”

Cortney Fraser said it was a challenge being a student athlete, but she would do it all over again.

Photo courtesy of Cortney FraserIt may come as a surprise that a common theme with several competitors interviewed – was that they found playing a sport actually made them better students, and encouraged them to work harder than the average university student.

Mount Royal University athlete, basketball player Jared Cornish, said: “Playing a sport helps you achieve better marks because you have a strict schedule. If you aren’t an athlete sometimes you’ll take advantage of the free time and procrastinate a lot more.”

Academics are key

Current MRU volleyball player, Trevor Langvand, added: “It is more important to be a good student because succeeding in school is what opens the door to being an athlete. If the focus was just on being an athlete my career would be over pretty quick.”

Former athlete Carless added: “As my years went on I found more importance in being a good student. I realize that education is the primary purpose of a student athlete, and how hard I work in school sets me up for the rest of my life.”

Nick Loewen, a basketball player for MRU said: “I’m getting that scholarship to play and go to school here. The fact that I am getting some school paid for is more motivation to do well academically.”

However, not all post-secondary players find being an athlete makes you a better student.

Cortney Fraser, a former volleyball player at Camosun College in Victoria, found the relationship of student and athlete difficult at times.

“I think that my marks suffered a bit while I was an athlete because school sometimes does get put on the back burner while playing,” Fraser said.

On the road

Student athletes spend a lot of time away from home in other cities attending games and tournaments – adding another interesting factor to the student athlete package deal.

“Guys on the team know school comes first,” Loewen said. “If we have assignments or projects we get that done in between games.”

Nick Loewen said being a student athlete puts pressure on you to perform on the court, but it also gives you more motivation to put in a full effort academically.

Photo courtesy of Sergei Belski Photography
Former volleyball player Carless stated: “I found it more effective to prepare more in advance. If I knew I would be travelling on certain weekends, I would finish assignments in advance – that way I could just focus on volleyball that weekend.”

Former Camosun athlete Fraser added: “You bring your homework with you, with the best intentions to do it while travelling or at night afterwards in the hotel.

“I’d say half the time I did it, and half the time I didn’t. There are so many social situations you would rather be involved with than stuck in your room alone doing school work.”

Social life

With all the time spent at team practices, playing games, and studying some would think these athletes have no time for a social life.

That may be true in some cases, however the teammates they spend hours with every week quickly become the source of their main social circle.

“Much of my socializing was just going to practice, and having a good time playing volleyball with a bunch of my friends,” Carless said.

Fraser agreed, “With athletics comes a social life, your teammates become your friends, and so if anything while playing volleyball my social life was busier than ever.”

Langvand, meanwhile, said that giving up some of his social life makes it easier to stay focused on school and volleyball.

“For me the priority is school, volleyball, work, social life,” Langvand said. “Fortunately, you can actually incorporate your social life in your other activities, and that’s what I try to do.”

lwesley@cjournal.ca

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