by Kelly Rumley
UBC Softball Team
The University of British Columbia, founded in 1908, is consistently ranked within the top 40 universities around the world.
Home to over 47,000 students from 140 different countries, the school is viewed as an extremely diverse and prospering university where students excel on an academic as well as athletic level – at least until recently.
After choosing to forgo the opportunity to join the NCAA in 2011, the Department of Athletics has decided to review all UBC sports teams, including varsity, club and intramural. Their goal was to reimagine sport at UBC. The Sport Targeting Review emerged as the plausible next step to create a new competitive model for UBC athletics with the intention of creating two strands – Varsity Sports and Competitive Clubs.
Due to changes within the Athletics Department, the constant construction around campus, and the string of sexual assaults over the last year, UBC has become ground zero for negative media attention. Focusing solely on the university’s shortcomings, students’ personal successes are being overlooked, especially within the student athlete community.
It’s important to recognize the positives associated with varsity sports and the impact varsity sports have on student athletes.
These athletes have obtained skills that have allowed them to excel at their sport while simultaneously preparing them for their professional futures.
Through participation in varsity sport, athletes develop skills such as time management, punctuality, dedication, tenacity, teamwork and many more that can be applied once their athletic career has ended. These skills are not only vital to athletic success, they’re also crucial in a working environment. Acquiring these traits gives athletes the ability to distinguish themselves from others in the workforce.
One of the main barriers to using transferable skills may be that athletes are simply not aware of them. Kerbi McKnight, a psychology graduate student from the University of Lethbridge, acknowledges this barrier
“Athletes often fail to give credit to the lessons and skills acquired through their sporting career,” she says. “This may result in tunnelled vision and foreclosed identity in which athletes are incapable of seeing how the same skills that made them successful in sport will make them successful in other career pathways.”
Same goes for Kehl Snyder, defensive back for the Thunderbirds football team.
“Team work, to start, and the desire to achieve a common goal,” Snyder says, listing the values athletics teaches and preaches. “Second, learning the value of hard work. (In the off season) we have early morning workouts and they suck and they’re hard but, in the end, I know all of our time and effort will pay off.”
Answers like Snyder’s prove that varsity sports are much more than simply results on a scoreboard or trophies in a cabinet. Athletes are acquiring skills that not only make them better athletes but – more importantly – better people, students and future employees.
These transferable skills are seen within former varsity athletes who are now well established within their desired career paths. They have utilized the skills varsity sports have taught them and now look for these skills in the hiring process.
“I am absolutely a huge advocate of athletics providing individuals a foundation of skills to better prepare themselves for life,” says Ronnie Paterson, a former all-Canadian goalie for UBC hockey, member of the 1980 Olympic team, and a former Director of Sales with Molson Brewery.
Paterson is currently an entrepreneur.
“The communication and leadership skills that are established in team sport and athletics are exemplary and are life skills that individuals utilize forever – the ‘compete level’ developed through sport is also a skill that will help assist people to become successful as they embark on a new career.”
In order to help athletes to continue to develop these skills, a volunteer alumnus from UBC Athletics has been taking strides to combat this mental block by creating a program to help prepare athletes for their future out of the limelight and into the office.
In 2012, the Thunderbird Mentorship Program was established to facilitate student-athletes interacting with professionals from the career field they desire, enhancing their professional networks before they need to go job hunting. In its first year, the program supported 16 student-athletes to meet face to face with at least three professionals in the careers that they hope to get into; in 2013, the program is helping 21 student-athletes do the same.
Through this program, UBC student-athletes are being coached to identify their individual strengths and to apply their transferrable skills to the next phase in their lives.
In addition, monthly seminars are hosted where a variety of professionals take the stage to discuss topics such as ‘Building Your Professional Network,’ ‘Taking the Next Steps – Transitioning from Sport to Career,’ ‘Informational Interviews – Why They Work!’ and ‘Resume Building 101 – How to Tell Your Story on Paper.’
“We help athletes harness specific skills and teach them to leverage connections as well as stand out in the hiring process,” said Cass Dypchey, Mentorship Manager. “They (athletes) don’t realize what they bring to the table with regards to future professions, so we work with them to articulate what they have to offer.”
Additionally, there are also various volunteer opportunities for Varsity athletes to participate and give back to their community.
IGUBC – I’m Going to UBC – is a program supported by the UBC Centre for Community Engaged Learning, where athletes have the chance to connect with inner city kids from around Vancouver. Varsity athletes volunteer their time to host a group kids on Friday afternoons. The children are given a tour of the campus and given a chance to play in the various sports facilities. The day ends by enjoying a varsity game.
The goal is to encourage these kids to excel in school, participate in sport and let them see that attendance at a university such as UBC is within their realm of possibilities.
In referring to UBC varsity athletes, Bailey Komishke, Student Program Assistant of IGUBC says, “We are role models and we represent our University in many capacities.”
Whether athletes are competing on the field, studying in the classroom, or spending time with friends, they are a product of their environment. Who they are, what they accomplish and how they present themselves can be attributed to their experiences throughout their athletic career. Commitment and a competitive edge is in their blood.
The skills acquired through varsity sport have helped develop them into the well-rounded, determined, and resilient individuals they are today.
Varsity sport teaches student-athletes critical life skills that will transfer into so many aspects of their careers for years to come. By competing with and against fellow athletes, they experience the reality of what it takes to set goals, achieve them, and accept failure when necessary. By hearing the success of past student-athletes, who have taken this first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed and applied it to their professional futures, it’s clear that varsity sport is vital to enhancing the student experience and expanding opportunity at a post-secondary institution.