The delicate balance of football and school
author: brady lang| sports writer
Rams RB Simon continues to maintain stability in hectic school life
Balancing a full school load while being an integral part of the Regina Rams offense may be unfathomable for some, yet that’s the life of Rams running back Atlee Simon.
Simon, going into his third season with the Rams, has been a key piece of the team’s offense since he signed his letter of intent. Simon, who is a Thom collegiate product, has put up over 1400 rushing yards throughout his time as a Ram, but Simon says the balance has gotten better throughout his collegiate career.
“It for sure is easier when you get used to the routine and have the understanding of how university life works. You learn to manage your time better, and form better study habits. And of course find time to get a nap or two throughout the day.”
As much as the life may seem glorified, there is a lot to take in as a student-athlete. Simon says balance can be a struggle.
“Just finding the energy to put the effort needed into your schoolwork in order to be successful. We are required to put so much time into our sport on a daily basis that it leaves little room for us to focus on our education.”
When speaking on his daily life, Simon commented that “[Going to] class throughout the day and [trying] to get a bit homework done. Then we will start meetings for football around 5 p.m. and we are on the field practicing from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. So in other words I’m at the school the majority of the day. There’s not much more time to do anything else during the season.”
The support for these players is really what helps drive the athletes to continue with their education. As difficult as it may seem, Simon says the support that is provided by family, professors, and the coaching staff is overwhelming.
“The coaching staff always preaches that we are ‘student athletes’ not ‘athlete students,’ so they are huge supporters of us striving to be the best we can be in the classroom. They put in place mandatory study hall for us throughout the week, which allows us the opportunity to get to sit down and be productive, as well as the team has free tutoring available for us. So we really have no excuse for struggling in school.”
In terms of players that have helped him out, Simon says, “Dillon Dawson and Jens Johnson both helped me huge in terms of the learning curve that comes with being a running back at the CIS level. And Andrew Bennett became like an older brother for me with adjusting to university life.”
When it comes to professors, they are definitely supportive of students in any situation, yet Simon says as long as the communication remains open, the professors support student-athletes a lot.
“They have been awesome. I have found that as long as I communicate my situation whether that be that I’m out of town or I need an extension they have been willing to work with me.”
One aspect that people may not think of when it comes to the balance of sport and school is the struggle when the morale goes down in either aspect. With football being a full-time job and school being the same, to keep the morale up is key to success for Simon.
“As much as I try to separate football away from school they always seem to reflect one another. For example, if I’m struggling in a class, the frustration of that can translate on the field, and vice-versa in terms of struggling in football. That’s why it’s so important you balance the two to the best of your ability, because like you said, it can effect your morale.”
Moving forward, Simon has some good advice for aspiring student athletes.
“Take advantage of the time you have as a student-athlete. Strive to be the best you can be in the classroom and in your respectable sport. You don’t want to look back and think to yourself that you could have gave a little more.”
In terms of the football season, Simon believes in the Rams and has seen many good things early on this season.
“Feeling optimistic. I think we have a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.”
The Rams are set to kick off their final season at Mosaic Stadium on Thursday night when they host the Manitoba Bisons. This will be Simon’s sixteenth career game as he hopes to continue to climb up the Rams all-time rushing list. He’s currently sitting in fourth and needs just 422 yards to pass Adrian Charles for third on the list.
Simon also led the Canada West Conference in carries (155), rushing yards (938) and rushing yards per game (134.0) in 2015.