Montreal, QC- Drinking, partying and sex. Three things that commonly go together.
University students are notoriously known for all of those aforementioned things. However, when a student-athlete combines them, it can be the difference between a national championship, win, or in extreme cases, acceptance to their academic institution.
It is not something that is often talked about in any realm of sports as fans typically idolize athletes, filling in the blanks of their lives which they do not know. I did some digging and opened the door into the lives of some of the best athletes Canadian University Sports (U Sports) has to offer.
High-level athletes come in all different forms, whether they are World Cup stars or students pursuing their love for the game at the college level. Whatever position they find themselves in, every player does their best to be at the top of their game when it matters the most.
It’s also a university experience for these athletes; an exciting time in their lives and a time where many people are relishing their first taste of independence. For the average student, it’s not uncommon to stay out late, get drunk or participate in sexual activities multiple nights a week.
But for the student-athlete, it’s not as simple as waking up for class the next day. They have workouts, games, travel and classes all combined in the mushy smoothy of life that is being a university athlete.
That’s not to say that athletes don’t enjoy these activities. They certainly do and participation is often extremely promoted among friend groups and teammates.
This is not just the case in university athletics, but also at the professional level.
At both levels, teams handle it differently depending on the coaching staff.
Prior to every World Cup of soccer, national federations release an information package for their players. This package will always include rules around drinking, partying and sex while the team is enthralled in competition.
In the documents for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the information ranged from how to pick up Russian women (Argentina), to complete abstinence (Germany), to bans on “acrobatic” sex positions (Brazil) while also including similar guidelines to the consumption of alcohol.
U Sports schools do not release such documents, however, similar policies are implemented by coaching staff. 49 spoke to a number of athletes from across U Sports about their team’s policies on the matters.
The Carleton University Ravens are pretty fun.
“No rules, just don’t be stupid I guess,” said midfielder Kelly Lowry before continuing on to say, “I’m in engineering, so partying is really big for my faculty; it can be hard sometimes.”
Carleton has the most relaxed rules of any school at the 2019 U Sports men’s soccer championships.
This can be attributed to a few things. It could be that the coaches trust the students to make the best decisions for themselves or it could be that the staff veers away from such conversation, not wanting to interfere with their athlete’s lives away from the pitch. It is an approach that emulates the Portuguese national team and the Canadian Premier League’s (CPL) FC Edmonton.
The players of the St. Francis Xavier X-Men have to follow some firm rules.
“No sex or drinking 48 hours before the game,” says Damion Simmons. The freshman went on to talk about how his friends and teammates have failed to abide in the past, leading to limited playing time or stripped scholarships.
That’s not the only rule that is implemented by the X-Men. They are also only allowed to participate in any once a week. The activities often go hand in hand, so it would be surprising if they weren’t able to take advantage of the combination all on the same night.
“Yes, we can” Simmons chuckled when asked the follow-up question, ending his statement with a very affirmative “As long as it’s not in the 48 hours!”
So we see two different approaches at the collegiate level; how about in the professional ranks?
49 also sat down with Jeff Paulus, the head coach of FC Edmonton of the CPL to chat about these topics.
“I’ve coached at the collegiate level and the professional level, so I know how to handle situations in both contexts,” said Paulus.
For the most part, he trusts his athletes, but when faced with student-athletes, he can use strategies that are unavailable at the professional level to keep his players in line. But the trade-off is that players who have made it to the professional ranks are often more self-disciplined.
With a student-athlete, it is easy to take away scholarships or put an athlete on university-based probation to teach them a lesson. These are not avenues that are available in the professional game.
Another challenge that Paulus faces when it comes to his professional athletes is the age. “We had a 33-year-old defender this year. Am I going to tell him when he can and can’t have sex? Of course not, If he has made it this far in his career, he knows how to handle being a pro athlete.”
U Sports athletes are now transitioning into CPL players through the annual draft. Paulus has seen first-hand how athletes are adjusting from the collegiate to the professional game. He says that the transition is easy for most players. At the top level of collegiate soccer where these players are coming from, they are used to acting like professionals for three months of the year. All they have to do when making the jump up the ranks is to maintain that personal discipline throughout all eight months of a pro campaign. Universities do a good job of integrating professional atmospheres in their programs with hopes of breeding future professional athletes as well as good citizens.
Drinking, partying and sex are part of young people’s lives whether they are athletes or not. But it’s the combination and moderation of the three that can be the difference in sports, academics and life.
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