With the end of the fall semester fast approaching, many students at the University of Regina are looking forward to a chance to unwind during Christmas break.
But while some students will hit the bottle in an attempt to drink away the memories of another long semester, many of the U of R’s student athletes will be hitting the gym instead.
“In past years I haven’t trained hard and I’ve always came back out of shape, and it always affected me for the first two or three games,” Darius Mole, said third-year men’s basketball player. “This time, I’m a little bit older and I know what needs to be done during the Christmas break, so I plan on training as hard as I can to come back in better shape.”
While many athletes’ seasons have already wrapped up for the academic year, the majority of Cougar athletes will finish their seasons after the break.
But the mid-season break doesn’t always mean egg nog and videogames.
“Guys know that if you don’t train, somebody else is going to train harder, and it’s going to affect your playing time,” Mole said. “If you want to contribute, you’ve got to stay on top of your work ethic.”
The combined pressure of school and sports can weigh heavy on a student athlete at times, but Mole said it’s something you learn to deal with.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “Staying on top of classes, I struggled my first few years, so I know firsthand how it goes. A lot of our young guys are understanding that it’s not easy.”
One of those younger athletes, men’s basketball rookie Travis Sylvestre, said he spent the first half of the season adjusting to the hectic university lifestyle.
“As the months have gone on I’ve kind of just got used to picking up a little bit of relaxation whenever I can,” he said. “Basketball is a break from school too, and I love playing it, so it’s not so bad. The court’s always a nice break.”
Like Mole, Sylvestre is looking forward to the Christmas break, but doesn’t plan on losing any ground during the time off.
“Quite honestly, yeah, I’ll get a little partying in…People say it’s OK for athletes to party as long as you wake up the next morning and take care of work.” – Darius Mole
“If you just took off this month to completely just chill out and party and what not you’d come back out of shape, and probably not really focused for school either,” Sylvestre said. “I’m hoping to maybe do a little pre-reading on textbooks for classes and work out and stuff. I don’t want to lose any fitness over the holidays.”
That level of commitment isn’t just confined to the basketball court, either.
Brian Sveinson, director of counseling services at the University of Regina, believes that student athletes in general are well equipped to deal with the rigours of university life.
“I think they have to have a very organized life and I think they learn over time, particularly by the time they get here, how to deal with stress,” he said. “My sense is a number of them have got a lot of good skills that kind of carry them through university, and certainly I think, with the help of their coaches and that, that it really makes a difference for them.”
While student athletes may handle stress better than the average student, the Christmas break is still a welcomed respite in the middle of the school year.
“I do think it’s important,” Sveinson said. “It’s nice to have a break to kind of slow down, to relax [and] to visit with family. There’s a lot of good things about the holidays that when it works well it does a lot of good for us.”
But even though hitting the gym will be top priority for many athletes over the break, they may still find some time to hit the bottle as well.
“Quite honestly, yeah, I’ll get a little partying in,” Mole said with a laugh. “I’m pretty sure a couple of our guys will get a couple parties in, but I mean, you’ve gotta have fun as well, you know? You’ve gotta live. People say it’s OK for athletes to party as long as you wake up the next morning and take care of work.”
Photo by Tenielle Bogdan