Tessa Virtue among 11 former Team Canada athletes starting at Smith School of Business

Eleven athletes to start at Queen’s in the coming months

To date, over 100 athletes have participated in the program.
Credit: 
Smith School of Business

Queen’s is preparing to welcome a new wave of student-athletes after Smith School of Business and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced the Team Canada Class of 2020-22 on April 3. 

The program is facilitated by a COC initiative called Game Plan, which recruits and advises athletes who are looking to take their next steps after hanging up their athletic gear. 

Game Plan combines education, career support, networking, and mental health resources to help Team Canada athletes find their individual pathways to success during and after their athletic careers. The partnership with Smith is one component of Game Plan’s education, community, and career pillars.

“We see education as a bridge for these athletes for what comes next in their life,” Amber Wallace, director of communications and external relations for Smith, said in an interview with The Journal

This year’s athletes include Larissa Werbicki, Zack Chetrat, Emily Baadsvik, Erica Wiebe, Ryan Blais, Brittanee Laverdure, Yoan Gauthier, Miah-Marie Langlois, Andrew Poje, Robert Davis, and Tessa Virtue. 

The program is also open to Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) athletes. To date, over 100 athletes have participated in the program.

The partnership offers athletes the choice between 12 business programs, supported by a scholarship funded by the Smith School of Business that covers the full cost of the program and related services. 

Wallace said the available academic programs draw parallels between the business world and sports field, allowing athletes to transfer skills including giving and receiving feedback, and integrating teams into their new field.

To qualify for the program, Wallace said athletes must follow the same application process as everyone else who wants to study at Queen’s. 

“It’s just that they’ve been identified through the Game Plan system,” Wallace said. “They have to be an athlete in a certain standing to be eligible for the scholarship.” 

Erica Wiebe is an incoming student in the Executive MBA Americas program. Having won the gold medal for Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Wiebe is the reigning Olympic champion in 75kg freestyle wrestling.

“I was very fascinated by the world and landscape of business. Managing uncertain situations and high-performance decision making […] all of the skills that make me a really successful wrestler, I see them in business leaders at the best companies in Canada,” Wiebe said in an interview with The Journal.

After finishing two Bachelor’s degrees in sociology and kinesiology, Wiebe has worked for Deloitte as a consultant for the past two years and is now continuing her studies at Smith. 

Wiebe is also preparing to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games, which have been postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19. She said the program is the “perfect” opportunity to transition into a new field while she’s at the tail end of her career.

“I think high pressure situations can actually work off each other and balance each other out,” Weibe said. “[I]t’ll make me a better student and a better athlete.”

Most of the EMBA program is delivered virtually to accommodate for the schedule of full-time athletes.

“It’s really tough to commit to something with the same intensity [as sports]. Sports have always been my priority, and I think academics balance really well with that, but work is really tough,” Wiebe said. 

Chris De Sousa Costa, a recent graduate of the Graduate Diploma in Business, won 11 national titles competing on the National Karate Team from 2004 to 2015. 

After retiring from competitive sport, De Sousa Costa pursued his BA in Communication Theory at York University. Then, he turned to Game Plan. 

An advisor helped him look through career opportunities and transferrable skills, and determined the GDB program at Smith to be his best option. The diploma program completes half the credits in the general MBA program, leaving the opportunity open for students to continue their studies in the future. 

“The good thing about business is you can apply the skills you learn to a wide variety of industries,” De Sousa Costa said in an interview with The Journal.

He now works full-time as an insurance underwriter for Chubb and serves as the Athlete Representative on the Board of Directors and High-Performance Committee for Karate Canada. 

Reflecting on his experience at Queen’s, De Sousa Costa said the team-based approach to the GDB program played a large role in developing bonds between the students as they worked together. 

Coming into the program as an older student, De Sousa Costa found this element of the program useful because he had worried that being over five years older than most students would impact the social aspect of his experience.

Looking to the future, De Sousa Costa said taking an MBA is still in the cards. 

Both athletes also mentioned the Game Plan alumni network that’s facilitated between individuals entering and graduating from programs at Smith. Athletes who have completed programs are available to advise incoming students about their transitions from athletics to academics, and about the programs available. 

“There’s so many athletes who have already gone through the program and have provided incredible mentorship and advice,” Wiebe said. 

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