More than just a hobby

Summer brings new set of challenges to Queen’s athletes.

With the school year long gone and the lazy days of summer settling in, many people can take pleasure in being unproductive. The crunch of the semester forces a subconscious nagging about assignments upon even the least diligent students. Even with a summer job, there is usually no need to think about it after punching the clock. In the summer, training replaces school for a varsity athlete. Four months is an incredible chunk of time to hone his or her skills. With such flexibility comes incredible pressure and excuses about schoolwork fade away as training goals take over.

The summer can often require individuals to stay with the team rather than head home for a break. The head coach of the women’s varsity basketball team explains that the commitments fluctuate.

“We run a couple of different phases; we ask that our players stay in [Kingston] the spring semester, May and June,” he said. “At that point we are doing on court individual training, scrimmages group training, we have [Rodney Wilson] doing strength and conditioning with them.” In team sports the ability to train with the same group of people can be crucial. Wilson mentioned that by the third or fourth year, most players end up staying in Kingston for the entire summer and their non-athletic activities vary.

“Some first years will take a class or two, some upper years working full time,” he said. “Some don’t do a whole lot other then work on basketball. If I had my druthers I would find more jobs from May-June, that would be an ideal thing, then our young athletes could make some money on the side.”

Often, athletics can be managed around individual training. Wilson said that a lot of individual exercises can be tailored to one’s schedule, though this can leave very little free time. For the women’s rowing team, scheduling has a greater impact than with basketball. Women’s head coach Zola Mehlomakulu felt that many of the athletes working full-time suffer athletically.

“[Work] absolutely affects it in a negative manner, it’s difficult especially with rowing, waking up at 5am in the morning, working all day and then trying to make it down for a work out at night,” he said. “It makes it physically difficult because there is no down time. It does adversely affect athletes.”

Athletes not staying in Kingston are frequently updated and monitored by coaches. “I’m in touch with all varsity athletes on the heavyweight side,” Mehlomakulu said. “Most of them are on my summer e-mail list so they know exactly what is going on in Kingston at all times. Most people are training at other clubs. Other people are just applying the training program they are getting.” Rowing ends as early as October so the summer functions as a natural lead in to the short fall season. Mehlomakulu emphasized the importance of the summer season.

“[It’s] absolutely imperative to success in the fall,” he said. “Summer is an opportunity for technical focus as well as baseline fitness, much more time to focus on everything. There also less distraction from school work or friends wanting to go out and party.” The social pressures of friends can play a large part in the summer training plan. The summer party scene can certainly tempt even the most serious athletes. Nevertheless, with most teams holding tryouts in late August, there is little time for relaxing during the summer. Third year midfielder, Nick Pateras said he and his team don’t feel the pressure to drink and party.

“I keep my eye on training camp, and I know [drinking isn’t] conducive to success in the fall,” he said. “I think we have a very dedicated team and they won’t be abusing their time off in the summer, because it’s not really time off at all. All the boys on our team will be resisting that temptation.” At Queen’s, being a varsity athlete means giving up many a summer day to get faster, hit harder, and shoot better. No one may notice the hard work from their beach chairs, but winning in the fall and the winter is good enough motivation for every athlete.

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