FeatureSportsThe wear and tear of transitioning to varsity sports

ETC StaffOctober 1, 20198 min

Francis Commey, Jayvon Micthum and Pablo Balza, Sports Reporters

Humber College men’s basketball assistant coach Chad Bewley remembers something his varsity coach told him years ago: there’s life beyond the sport.

“My coach told me there’s social life, there’s basketball, there’s school work, and there’s work, like making money,” he said. “There are four things, pick two.”

Bewley keeps an eye on his players to ensure they’re not overwhelmed by the pressures of sport and academics, to help them find that balance. The transition from high school to college athletics can be a tough road.

Shae Phillips, a member of the Hawks’ basketball team, is experiencing the wear and tear of being a varsity athlete. (Francis Commey)

The Student-Athlete Mental Health Imitative (SAMHI) states one in five Canadians “will experience a mental health problem or illness in their lifetime. That includes student athletes.”

Andre Hodges, a former Humber College basketball player now coaching the junior varsity team, has lived it and seen it.

He said the most daunting time in a college athlete’s career might come at the very moment of celebration in first making a varsity team. That’s when an athlete realizes what he or she is up against.

“You have to start from the bottom, facing guys who are just as good as you, guys who have been in the gym even longer than you, guys who are stronger, guys who are faster than you,” Hodges told Et Cetera.

Balancing daily practice with school work is a significant challenge, let alone finding time for a part-time job or a social life.

But student athletes also could face physical injuries.

“The key to overcoming the injury is by having lots of support from friends and family,” said Humber’s Sports Information Coordinator Brian Lepp.

Lepp oversees many of the Humber sports teams including basketball, baseball, and hockey. He has dealt with many players experiencing physical pain and duress.

At Your Own Risk.org reveals about 90 per cent of college athletes suffer injuries during the academic school year and 54 per cent of the injured students plays while healing from their respective injury.

This can also mess with a person’s mental health.

“You have to try to be the best as an athlete, don’t let the mistakes drag you down,” said Tristan Gayle, defender with the Humber men’s soccer squad. “Instead, use the mistakes and better yourself to become better, whether it’s in school or on the field.”

Shae Phillips, a member of the Humber College basketball team, is experiencing the wear and tear of being a part of the team for the first time.

He said it’s a bit overwhelming at first learning how to adapt to such a drastic change in his everyday life.

“When it comes to comparing responsibilities that you have as a high school athlete versus being a post-secondary athlete, there’s a big difference,” Phillips said.

“Personally, the adjustment for me felt more demanding due to the fact that playing on the junior varsity team did not prepare me at all for this big step, it’s my first year being on this team and it has been a real culture shock so far,” he said.

Pressures from each side, including physical pain, can bring out a lot of troubles within a student athlete, more intense than high school and more difficult than middle school.

Lepp said the journey of an athlete isn’t easy, and it’s long.

“We have a great therapy team, we have medical doctors, we have academic advisors,” he said. “One of the most important things of being a student athlete is time management”.

Student athletes’ recovery period can vary depending on the type of injury, but if it is a severe injury it can take from six months to a year to be fully recover to be back on the team.

There are ways for student-athletes to heal their injuries such as stretching before games and going to the kinesiology department to prevent and to speed up the healing process.

High level sports demand student athletes need to be aware, stay focused and plan ahead. “Everything requires a little bit more of you,” Bewley said.