Game Plan ChampiON POSTS

(October 29, 2018- January 31, 2019)

Post 1: Intro

October 29, 2018

BIO: I moved to Burnaby, British Columbia to attend Simon Fraser University on an athletic scholarship. I wrested for the Simon Fraser University wrestling team until 2013. During that time I won several University and National Titles, and a Junior World Title. After graduating with an undergrad in criminology I decided to continue my education and wrestling endeavours in Burnaby. I started my masters in 2013 (finished in 2015) and continued to wrestle for the Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club. Most notably, I won the University World Championships and Commonwealth Games during that time. In December 2015 I qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games. I attended the Olympic Games in August 2016. However, at the Games I was injured and forced to withdraw. In the summer of 2017, I moved to Calgary to begin law school at the University of Calgary and to continue my wrestling career with the Calgary Wrestling Club.

I currently compete on the Canadian Wrestling Team. Most recently, I attended the Senior World Wrestling Championships in October 2018, where I win a silver medal. I also recently began my second year of law school. I plan to continue to pursue and excel in both my academic and athletic life. I am working towards having a successful performance at the 2020 Olympic Games and towards having a successful career as a lawyer after that time.

REFLECTIONS: I honestly cannot recall why I decided to move away from my hometown to attend University.  My parents encouraged me to pursue higher education but I felt no pressure from them to do so. My 3 siblings decided not to attend University, so I had the option of following their lead. However, for me, University felt like the natural “next step” in my life. I don't remember considering any other option for myself.

A huge reason for my certainty in pursuing a post secondary education was because, in Canada Wrestling, high performance wrestling centres are based out of university wrestling programs. For example, the University of Calgary, Simon Fraser University, and Brock University, are home to three high performance centres. Therefore, I was of the opinion that if I wanted to be a great wrestler, I needed to attend one of these programs.  I chose Simon Fraser University.

I chose to major in Criminology, initially with the dream of one day becoming a Crown Prosecutor. Excelling in school therefore became necessary in order for me to achieve my dream. However, as I matured and as I learned, my thoughts about education and my educational experiences transformed.  I realized that education was a privilege. I no longer wanted to pursue my education as simply a means to my career goal, but as a means in itself. I began to crave learning and knowledge. I no longer saw my education as subordinate or as “a bonus” to my wrestling aspirations, but as distinct and equally important. I have developed the belief that education and learning should be life-long priorities.

Through my experiences, I have become an advocate for higher education. I know that the formal education system is not for everyone. However, I also know that knowledge is a very important asset. This asset can be accessed and expanded in numerous ways and in numerous settings. For me, it has primarily been through post-secondary education.

For any high school student athlete who talks to me, I encourage them to continue sport in university. Being a part of a university team is the most incredible, life-changing experience. It is a privilege and a rare opportunity that I think many people take for granted. Chasing excellence alongside teammates, who feel like your family, is indescribable. Pushing each other to be better, and supporting each other in failure and triumph is extraordinary. The life lessons, character building, and life skills you develop are priceless. It is something you will forever be thankful for, something you will never regret, and something that will be filled with experiences you will never get anywhere else.

And, contrary to what may people say, you can excel in both your sport and in your studies, while doing them AT THE SAME TIME.

Post 2: Life After Sport

November 2, 2018

Disclaimer: I have voiced some of these thoughts before but they seem relevant/ necessary to repeat for the purpose of this post.

For many people, their careers are part of their identities- they work hard, get an education or training, and prioritize work- with eyes on making money, getting a raise, or making a difference, with long term, life-long goals in mind. For athletes however, their “careers” are always on a shorter time-line. We know that our 20’s are when we will reach peak performance in the sporting world.  But after this athletic career is over-then what? We put in the hours and years of training for something that we know is short lived. We gladly, and willingly sacrifice everything else. However, after athletic careers have ended, athletes are forced to find alternate careers in order to make a living.

For high performance athletes, their teammates and experiences, and the passion they have for the sport will remain but they will be forced to make this transition out. This forced retirement is maybe due to injuries, finances, or maybe due to the realization that they are unable to get to the level or maintain the level of performance needed to be successful. However, many athletes do not realistically think about life after sport, or who they are without the sport prior to their retirement.  Their “master status” is that of an athlete. Therefore, transitioning out of sport is tremendously difficult.

In the sporting world, life after sport is rarely talked about. It is an important topic that is commonly ignored. The time that the athlete “retires” is too late to start this conversation. I believe that encouraging athletes to plan and think about life after sport is necessary for the well-being of all high performance athletes. Sure, all athletes know their athletic careers are relatively short, but vocalizing this fact and explaining the difficulties some athletes face after sport, will have athletes thinking about the seriousness and importance of planning for that point in their lives.

For me, planning for my life after sport has largely involved getting an education.  I have been able to get an undergraduate degree, masters degree and am currently pursing a law degree. These educational pursuits have been pursed concurrently with my wrestling pursuits.  Through the years as a student-athlete I have been able to excel in both my athletics and academics. These two worlds have complimented each other, challenging different parts of myself. I love wrestling and I love learning. For me, it is a privilege every day to go to school and a privilege every time I get to wrestle.

I am pursuing a law degree so that when I finish my wrestling career, I will be able to transition into a legal career. I believe that as a lawyer, I will be able to wake up every day excited for the challenge, the opportunity to learn and better myself and those around me, and the opportunity to use my platform and privilege to help others.  

I encourage all athletes, who are considering getting an education to do so. The education experience can be individualized and may look different to each person. However, if you time-manage effectively, are mindful, and work hard, you can be world-class in both realms. You don't have to choose. You don't have to wait.

NOTE: The Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Sport Canada and the Canadian Sport Institute Network together launched the Game Plan Program, a transition program to provide support to Canadian athletes in life and sport. Game Plan is an essential program. It assists athletes with their network, education, career, skill development, & health. However, not very many athletes are aware of these services (I did not know about the programs or services offered to me until quite recently).  If you are a national team athlete or have recently retired- SIGN UP FOR THIS PROGRAM. It will help you plan for life after sport.

Post 3: “You Cant Do it All”

November 12, 2018

I have heard countless times- “you can’t do it all”. To an extent, I agree with this assertion. If you are trying to undertake (too) many different roles, you will undoubtedly stretch yourself too thin and find yourself unable to excel in any of those roles. However, although I concede that “you cant do it ALL”, I still believe that you can do (a whole heck of) A LOT.

I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by people who have multiple roles in their life, and who are extremely successful in each role.  For example, my teammate, Diana Weiker, is a full time nurse, a mother of two, and a national team wrestler. She just won a bronze medal at the world championships, and in doing so, has shattered expectations and traditional ideas of what it looks like to be a high performance athlete (or mother for that matter). Many people feel as though they have to be singularly focused to be successful. Some athletes think that sport has to be their only priority, all consuming, and the most importance part of their life in order to be world class. I do not believe this is true. For some athletes, success may require such a one-dimensional focus, but for others, they will be able to have multiple priorities and multiple roles, and be able to be successful in each.  Every athlete is different.

For me, academics and athletics compliment each other. One challenges me physically and one challenges me mentally. I crave improving as a wrester, and I also crave gaining knowledge as a student.  I have very good time management skills and am very organized, which has been essential to my successes.  Additionally, a major part of me being able to be successful in these two roles has been my ability to be mindful and focused. In wrestling practice and in my training, I am focused on only improving as an athlete and wrestler. When I am in class or doing my homework, I am fully present and focused on learning and the tasks at hand. Compartmentalizing these two worlds has allowed me to excel and succeed in both worlds.

I truly believe that having both school and wrestling has helped me to be successful in both worlds. They each provide escapes from each other, when necessary, and provide a balance to each another.

Don't think that you have to be singularly focused in any part of your life to be successful. Remember, although you can’t have it all, you can have (a whole heck of) A LOT.