Lets be honest, being a student athlete is difficult. Balancing your sport, school, social life and a job (if you have one) can be quite the juggling act at any level. For example, here is a typical schedule for a student-athlete in a Canadian University:
*Keep in mind, this doesn't include studying, cooking, working out, commuting, or your socializing.
The purpose of me sharing this information isn't to scare anyone, but rather to illustrate some realities of life as a student athlete. As a student athlete, you have the same academic expectations and deadlines as every other student with no exceptions or special treatment. We must find a way to succeed in our academic and athletic careers under these circumstances.
WHY ACADEMIC SUCCESS IS IMPORTANT
It can be easy to undermine the importance of academic success especially when we are also so focused on our athletic success. This is something that I have struggled with so I understand how easy it is to fall into this mindset of "football first". I think it is safe to say that everyone reading this has been told that school is important a thousand times. So rather than just tell you, let me show you a few facts based on research:
- A one-point increase in high school GPA has been shown to almost double the probability that an adolescent boy or girl will someday complete a college degree.
- A one-point increase in a person's high school GPA has been shown to increase average annual earnings in adulthood by about 13%.
- Here are the average minimum grades you need to get into the following University of Calgary faculties this year:
-Arts: 70-78% -Commerce: 82% -Engineering: 85% - Science: 78-90% - Kinesiology: 80-85%
As you can see, your grades in high school will have a major effect on not only what you can take in University, but also your likeliness to finish University and have a successful career.
It is also important to understand that while professional football is a great goal, it is very difficult to get to that level, it can often also be very short lived. This is why it is vital to prioritize your career outside of football. Check out the statistics below.
KEYS TO SUCCESS AS A STUDENT ATHLETE
- Focus on your WHY! Remember WHY it is important to YOU to succeed in school. If you have an idea of what you want your career outside of football to be, then focus on that. If you do not, then focus on keeping all options open for your future self and exploring choices.
- Write down your GOALS! Whether you're in middle school, high school or college, write down your long term and short term goals.
- PLAN! Write out a game plan of how you're going to execute your goals. I recommend using a journal or calendar and planning out your months, weeks and days, prioritizing your time to include studying, working out, cooking etc.
- EXECUTE! Now it is time to execute your plan. Stay focused and trust the process!
Part 2 of this series will focus on in season physical preparation, which is crucial because it helps you to perform at an optimal level on game day. This includes: practice, strength training, cardio, mobility routines, injury treatment/prevention, nutrition and hydration. A lot to balance isn't it? While it is difficult to focus on all of these things every day, it is much easier to build a routine that addresses all of these components. Your routine should be custom fit to your priorities and what works well for YOU.
Practice is repeating an action multiple times before performing it. Whether it be a throw, catch, cut or a play. In football we want to build muscle memory, so that we can perform these actions effectively and effortlessly. Depending on your position and skill set, you will to carry a ‘toolbox’ around with you throughout your career that consists of different skills. As you go through your journey and continue to master your craft you will always add to your toolbox. In the off season, practice means working on your craft, whatever it might be. During the season, practice usually takes care of itself.
Working out can be tough during the season, but it can also pay huge dividends later in the season. Everyone is strong at the beginning of the season, but you can differentiate yourself by following a workout routine throughout the season so that you are still strong in the later parts of the season. What works for me is to designate 2-3 days per week to workout, this allows me to hit each muscle group at least once per week as well as knock out my mobility work.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison spent $350,000/year on “bodywork” (massage, acupuncture, cupping etc.) while he was playing. Now, spending this much money on bodywork is not realistic for the vast majority of us, however it does shed light on how important treatment is for him. And considering he played linebacker in the NFL at a high level, until he was almost 40, his opinion is valuable in the conversation of longevity. Bodywork includes anything from foam rolling to acupuncture to massage therapy. Bodywork increases mobility, relaxes muscles, treats/prevents injuries etc. If you cannot afford to have someone do this for you, which can get quite expensive, take matters into your own hands. You can purchase a lacrosse ball, foam roller, and massage cups for under $20. These all can be effective forms of bodywork, and you can find many guides and exercises on the internet if you are not familiar with how to use them.
It is easy to let nutrition and hydration slip by the wayside during a season, but it is still important to perform at your best level. Habits are key here, as it is unrealistic to expect to have these things at the forefront of your mind throughout a busy day. If you make your own meals, have a few go to meals that you know are healthy and easy to make. Do your own research on what you want to include in your diet and take control of what you put in your body. For more on why it is important to hydrate and how to properly hydrate, click here.
- ROBERT WOODSON
RAW SPORTS CO-FOUNDER & DEFENSIVE BACK FOR THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS
We all want to be successful on game day, right? But, what exactly determines success when the lights are on? Furthermore, what affect does the preparation that you put in prior to the game have on playing at a high level? There are many different types of preparation, and it is important to evaluate each separately and find the right amount that works for you. In part 1 of this segment, we will go over mental preparation. Being mentally prepared allows you to play fast and aggressive, and can be broken down into two categories: understanding your assignments, and knowing you opponent.
It is not a good feeling to be on the field and not know your assignment, and this very rarely if ever leads to success. Depending on your coach, your weekly game plan can be very simple, complicated, or anything in between. However, what is consistent in all of these cases is that you are the one on the field playing, and if you do not execute your assignments, the blame will be solely on you. Therefore, before you watch any film on another team or think about who you're playing, it is crucial to know your alignments, responsibilities and adjustments on your own plays.
Every player has their own style in preparing for an opponent. Players such as Peyton Manning, Patrick Peterson, Luke Kuechly, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Larry Fitzgerald use their preparation time to thoroughly dissect their opponent, and in doing so they amplify their play on game day. Charles Woodson used a slightly different approach, and would have a few ‘nuggets’ heading into game day each week, and knew that when these plays came it was go time. Other players prefer to watch minimal film on their opponent and have the mindset that if they play well on their end, that the rest would be taken care of. The truth is that there isn’t a right or wrong answer that applies to everyone. It really comes down to your personal preference, position, level of play etc.
I have been fortunate to get to know some great football minds throughout my career. One of those is Anthony Calvillo, arguably the best quarterback in CFL history. Anthony Calvillo finished his career with 79,816 passing yards, which is more than any Quarterback in the CFL or NFL, ever. He is also one of seven Quarterbacks to throw over 400 career touchdowns, the others being Brett Favre, Warren Moon, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He is now the quarterbacks coach for my current team, the Toronto Argonauts. I asked him what his secret to being successful for so many years was, and I think it is important to share some of the 'nuggets' that he told me. He attributes his success to his ability to prepare consistently, and to do the little things that many players are not willing to do. His weekly routine was meticulous and efficient, it really illustrates the importance of mastering your own game plan, studying your opponent and merging the two. Every day he would re write his notes and the plays that would be ran that week, even if he already knew them well. He would then spend at least two hours watching film on the defense he would be playing against that week, and go through his reads on the plays in the game plan. Throughout his career, he was known for his ability to go through his reads and get the ball out extremely fast. In our conversation, he noted that he was able to do this because he had already played the game several time before game day, and that by game time he didn’t have to think.
Throughout my football career I have been both under prepared and over prepared for a game. Playing under prepared can lead to your opponent catching you off guard and missed opportunity, while being over prepared can lead to over thinking on the field. At every level I have played, I have found a lot of value in putting time in the film room. Football really comes down to a collection of 1 on 1 battles. The more you can learn about your opponents strengths and weaknesses, the better you can attack and defend against them. Throughout the week, I will find a handful of nuggets that I can use during the game. Trying to focus on too many patterns and tendencies can slow you down and can lead to ‘paralysis by analysis’.
- Robert WOODSON
RAW SPORTS CO-FOUNDER & DEFENSIVE BACK FOR THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS
- ROBERT WOODSON
RAW SPORTS CO-FOUNDER & DEFENSIVE BACK FOR THE TORONTO ARGONAUTS
We have all been told that hydration is important, right? However, without the exact reasons why, it can be difficult to prioritize hydration. I know that for most of my football career, I did not prioritize staying hydrated as much as I should have. This was not because I didn’t know it was important, but because I didn’t know the reasons why it was important and what some of the implications might be if I didn’t hydrate properly. It can be easy to overlook hydration as an important aspect of performance, especially with the “instant results” propaganda being pushed on the internet and social media.
and is experienced when the body is already dehydrated. Dehydration can cause many bodily functions to worsen and many of these functions are not only important for general health but also for athletic performance and injury prevention. Recent studies point to a reduction in blood flow to muscles during a state of dehydration, this can wreak havoc on muscle function. Studies have shown that dehydration has a negative effect on balance and neuromuscular control, which both are very strong predictors of injury. Another very important aspect of staying properly hydrated is to maintain proper electrolyte levels. Studies show that electrolyte depletion worsens muscle endurance, which can lead to strains and sprains.
Through my experiences, I have learned the importance of hydration the hard way. Most of my muscle injuries (strains, tears etc.) have occurred when I was in a dehydrated state. Although I wouldn't say that this was the sole reason I sustained these injuries, it definitely played a role.
95 OZ of water per day. Consuming foods and drinks rich in electrolytes is another good habit to add to your daily routine. The 5 most important electrolytes for athletes are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Some high electrolyte foods that I keep in my diet are bananas, potatoes, kale, and avocado. Coconut water and sports drinks are also a good source of electrolytes. Something that has helped me improve my hydration habits is to always carry a water bottle around with me, and to know exactly how many bottles of water I need to drink to meet my daily goal. For example, my current water bottle carries 32 OZ of water, therefore I need to drink at least 3 bottles of water per day to stay hydrated.
As athletes we look to control as many variables as we can that will lead to high performance as well as staying healthy. Staying hydrated might not be the most exciting or talked about aspect of performance, but it may be one of the most important as well as one of the easiest to control. Making proper hydration a habit should be a top priority for any athlete.
Head Coach Greg Wilson and the Wildcats will be looking to continue their success from last year and repeat as the #1 seed in the Parkinson division. Coach Wilson believes strong line play on both sides of the ball will produce a winning team, “our keys to success this season is solid Offensive Line Play on Offence and Front Seven on Defence.” Coach Wilson does not underestimate the importance of special teams either, “We have always prided ourselves with having a good kicking / punting game and will be leaning on that heavily to secure a win in the field position battle all season long.”
Offensive coordinator Kevin Kopczynski will be looking to mimic last years success on offence in which the Wildcats were the #2 scoring offense in the league. Quarterback Dominic Britton will be returning at the helm. The Wildcats have a two headed monster at running back in Asfand Ali and Nic Bernard who will be running behind an experienced offensive line led by mauler Sam Carson. Receiver Ewan MacDonald will make defenses pay if they stack the box against the run.
On defense, coordinator Garry Wilson will deploy a stout defense that is built from the line back. Nolan Pelletier and Cameron Michaud should dominate up front all season, and athletic Jordan Innes will be all over the field as a linebacker, defensive back hybrid. Look out for Daniel Theal to have a breakout season this year in the secondary.
The 2017 Division 1 Champion Cowboys will be looking to repeat this year, and Head Coach Raymond Biggs will have another talented roster to work with. The Cowboys defense may have gotten even better this year, which is saying a lot considering they gave up the fewest points in the league in 2017 (33).
There is lots of speculation on who OC Remo Cardone will name the starting Quarterback to start the season. Logan Johnson, Carson Schuster and first year Nolan Kaban will all be battling for the job. Whoever wins the job will have a talented receiving corp to throw to that includes Christian Bowman, Jordyn Pennylegion and Declan Wilkie. Look out for Opemipo Oshinubi to have a big year at running back this year.
The Cowboys defense, led by former Calgary Stampeder Ron Hopkins should be dominant this season. Linebackers Daniel Flanagan and Simon King are two of the best in the league, and should be relatively untouched behind outstanding defensive lineman Nick Schmeiler. Defensive back Declan Collins will be an enforcer in the secondary and ball hawk Charlie De Land looks to cement his status as a top defensive back in the class of 2020.
The Cowboys route to success this season will come through their defense continuing where they left last year, and for their new look offense to gel and find a rhythm sooner than later.
This year the Mavericks will once again be a strong contender to take the Division 1 crown. Decorated Head Coach Kenton Leonard returns this year once again and will field a very experienced and talented roster.
Coach MacKay will be the teams offensive coordinator, and uses a pro style offense to make the most of the talent at his disposal. This offense will be led by a quartet of Grade 11 skill players. Receiver Mathew Greiner and Chevy Thomas, and as running backs Josh de Plessis and Michael Delgado are entering their 7th year together. First year starter Isaiah Klein will be under center and should have plenty of weapons to choose from.
The Mavericks defense, coached by Nelson Hernandez, will be led by an exciting group of linebackers featuring Keidron Hughes and Colin Clarke who we believe will have a breakout season this year. Other defensive standouts include defensive line anchor Konrad Walter, defensive back Tyshon Blackburn and defensive back Jonathan Guistini who is also the teams Kicker.
This team will have a chip on its shoulder this year as they look to finish what they failed to last year. If the veterans on this team can take over in the playoffs, the Mavericks have a very good shot at the city championship.
This year the Airdrie Raiders will look to bounce back after a disappointing season in 2017. Up for the challenge are Head Coach Steve Kemp and Defensive Coordinator Josh Joynson. The Raiders keys to success this year are going to be utilizing a dynamic passing attack on offense and making plays on defense with their athletic LBs.
On offense, the Raiders will be led by the exciting duo of 2nd year QB Keegan Henderson and dynamic 3rd year receiver Reid Jensen. 1st year receiver Rhett Mitschke will be looking to make an impact in his first year, and is one of our 1st year players to watch.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders will miss the presence of DL Nils Haeni, LB Owen Kramer and DB Anthony Eshiemomoh. Look out for ball hawking Safety Keegan Proudlock, who will be looking to improve on a 2017 campaign in which he was named a league all star. Dylan Sorsdahl will lead an exciting linebacker core that will also feature promising 1st year Conner Enns.
The Prairie Fire will be looking to improve upon a 2017 season in which they went 2-4. At the helm will be Head Coach Patrick Callan, a former Calgary Dino with a diverse coaching background. “Our key to success is to have no slow starts. This is includes every game and the season in general.” says Coach Callan, who sets high standards for his team and creates a high competition environment in practices. “We approach every week on its own, and encourage our athletes to compete at their highest level, in every drill, rep and practice and eventually game time, the outcome will take care of itself.”
Offensively, OC Adam Donovan will run a progressive offense, utilizing the zone run game as well as RPOs (run pass options). Carson Neitz will be under center this year and will be behind a dominant offensive line that includes the likes of Jacob Weller, Brendin Holm and Tristan Loewen. Expect running back Shaye McCutcheon to see a heavy workload this year, as the Prairie Fire look to establish a dominant run game.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Sheppard will field an aggressive and versatile defense, that will create pressure through multiple formations and exotic blitzes. He will have plenty of tools at his disposal with a veteran defense with plenty of play makers. Teams will have a difficult time through the air against this secondary that boasts a trio of ball hawks in Haidan Brown, Nathan Fuerbringer and Connor McCrea as well as newcomer Turner Douglas who is one of our 1st year players to watch this year. The Fire also have a dynamic group of linebackers led by Kaidyn Puttick and Chase Lloyd.
Overall, the Prairie Fires success this year will depend on their ability to find success in the running game on offense, and to keep teams out of the end zone and create turnovers on defense.