Student-Athletes Action, Progression ~ Kolton Kowalchuck

You don’t truly know what you’re getting yourself into when becoming a varsity athlete.  Regardless of school, conference or country, athletes in both the CIS and NCAA share common lifestyles, and understand the necessity to balance school with extra-curricular activities.  First and foremost, varsity athletes are students, and studying towards getting their degree – for the 99% of those who don’t turn pro, this is what will get them through life.  The sad reality of it is that too many athletes don’t make it, and those who do rarely make a decent living.


What many don’t know is that “behind the scenes” these same student-athletes are almost always involved in their communities through volunteer work and philanthropy.  Many varsity teams plan community involvement initiatives, and at the same time athlete groups such as varsity councils, also plan greater initiatives that entire varsity communities can take part in.


As a varsity golfer in Northern Ontario, I have a longer college “off-season” than actual season.   Playing from the end of August to the end of October, leaves me six months of down time to practice and to work on various community involvement projects.


In the varsity community I sit on the Carleton University Varsity Council as the Men’s Golf Representative.  The main goal of the council is to meet and plan athlete led initiatives, such as fundraising events including Pink in the Rink,  the D.I.F.D. (Do It For Daron) game, and the Raven’s Care Program.  All events run by the Carleton University Varsity Council are organized by the council, but the man – or woman power comes from the help of all varsity teams working together, creating not only a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of community throughout all teams.


Both Pink in the Rink and the Do It For Daron Women’s Hockey fundraisers are events planned in conjunction with the women’s hockey team and are initiatives which members of the varsity community plan and execute.  Those who aren’t involved are commonly seen out supporting or making small donations with the hope of winning various prizes donated by community companies.


On of the main initiatives founded by our Varsity Council is Raven’s Care.  Raven’s Care is an initiative started by the council to support community kids with a safe and fun after school program.  The program is designed to allow kids in the vicinity around Carleton University to enjoy activities, games and to also get help with homework.  This all happens at a local community centre.


From a personal standpoint, I use my own volunteer work as a chance to connect and socialize with other athletes and friends in a way where we’re able to perform this work together – and in doing this, it never feels like we’re ever actually working.  This is a sentiment that I know my fellow athletes can relate to, and one that I would like to think all those volunteering for anything would also.  Not only does working with other strangers accomplish a common goal, but it also teaches valuable lessons.  Working in groups, running an organization and following deadlines are all real-world scenarios that we experience planning events such as Pink In The Rink, and the D.I.F.D. games, and the more and more events planned, the better each subsequent event runs.


For many, student action starts at a young age – in high school in Ontario students are required to perform 40 hours of community service.  While although some see it as a burden, many, like myself see it as a way to give back and be involved.  There is a genuine sense of happiness and accomplishment felt after spending a day of volunteering, or after a successful event.  Through this, slowly but surely, the stigma around volunteering has been shifting from being a burden, towards being the “cool” and fun thing to do. 


Similarly, by targeting young students through events such as WE Day we see this shift starting from the ground up.  Although I never had the privilege to attend this event, I truly believe that the trickle down – or up effect, will see more and more university students making positive changes through student action, regardless of whether or not they are varsity athletes.  One can only hope that this trend continues, and those who benefit from these efforts are able to “pay it forward” in a sense, and continue the movement.


I can only hope that the work my peers and I perform helps to inspire and better those we affect.  Regardless of how big or small each event may be, we genuinely feel as though we are making a world of a difference – and to many, we are.  As a child I was so heavily influenced by older cousins and friends who were my idols, and I hope that by doing this I am able to inspire as many students as possible, young and old.  If student action truly continues on the path that it’s taking, the world will one hundred percent be a better place by the time my own children are ready to do their parts.


Kolton  Kowalchuck

Carleton Ravens Golf



Athletes Submitting Knowledge is celebrated its 1 year anniversary in May 2013.  In that year  High School, College and Pro athletes have shared their experiences via blog articles, videos and live events.  The Conversation Leaders and Contributors have created a lasting resource for young athletes to use as they grow into strong team and community leaders.  
To see what RISE is up to now go to

Sacrifice ~Alison Fox and Danielle Abusow


  If you had told me two years ago that I would be where I am in terms of rowing now, I wouldn't believe it for a second. Two years ago I had never even heard of rowing, yet, it has undoubtedly become the most major component of my life. 


          In the past two years, I have sacrificed many things for rowing. Many rowers have. Some of these sacrifices I have come to regret, but most have led to me where I am today. For example, I've missed family trips and holidays, and a friend's wedding all for training and competitions.

         This is because rowing is not a sport where you have a substitute to take your place if you're tired, sick, or can't show up for some reason. It is not a sport where you switch positions to accommodate missing people or have spares. There is one seat in a boat, a seat in which you sweat, cry, and bleed to earn. Your responsibility in earning that seat is that it then owns you. If you fail to come to a practice, then your entire crew is left to work out on the land. There is no excuse good enough not to be at a regatta. You are part of a system, and with even just one part of that system missing it cannot run. 

         During the fall season, we are required to be at the boathouse at 5:20am. It is approximately 3-4km from most of our houses and running or biking are the most common modes of transportation available to us as students. It is usually very cold in the fall season, and we row- rain or shine. We then row until about 7:50am doing various workouts, but always giving it our all. We then put away the equipment and are lucky if we make it to our 8:30am classes on time. You are blessed if you have enough time to have a warm shower after being in freezing rain for three hours. Usually you have to choose between food and a shower; most often, the shower wins. You fall asleep in most classes and spend the rest of your day eating or doing homework while inspecting the new blisters your palms have earned. You hope that the blisters are not too large, because, if that is the case, they will most likely be ripped open 12 hours later at the 5:30pm practice. Or, even worse, it may be weights day and you will have to fit in a third workout.

          A lot of people ask me why I row. Why would I put myself through something so unpleasant? The usual topics of conversation amongst rowers are how sore they are, how much they were hurting during practice, how seat racing was unfair, how tired they are, how they injured their back, how they have tendinitis, how they almost killed themselves to get a seat in that boat, how they lost to an opponent by a bowball, and how their hands have gotten so infected that they cannot use them, but are still required to come to practice. It does not sound very pleasant, does it? Maybe we are all masochists. Maybe not. My personal reasons for being a part of this sport are my own. But, a big reason is because I am in love. I love being part of a sport where I get to see the sun rise and set each day. I love being part of a sport where I am on beautiful, flat water. It is a sport where the effort given is commonly equal to the results. There is always something new to learn or work on; ways to improve your strength on the ergometer and efficiency on the water.


         Even having been an athletic person my whole life, I have never felt so fit as I do since taking up rowing at university. There is something so tranquil about being on the water, gliding along in the stunning wilderness. I love summer rowing. I love the feeling of earning a win. I love making new friends on the bus rides to regattas. I love meeting new people at regattas. I love wearing the varsity gear to represent my school and team. But, most of all, I enjoy the rowing community. You can go to any city, province, or country, and find a boathouse. You will find people going through the same things, feeling the same pain and love for this sport. 
Yes, I have sacrificed a lot for this sport. Yes, I sometimes regret it. Yes, some days I want to quit. But, ultimately, above all else, I am madly in love with rowing, and can't see myself stopping anytime soon.



Alison Fox



                                                                                                                Lightweight Women's Rower

                                                                                                                Queen's University      


             Hi, I’m Danielle and I just completed my first year at Queens as a varsity lightweight women. I started rowing around 4  years ago in my grade 10 year of High school. Before rowing the past 10 years of my childhood revolved around competitive dance until an overuse injury forced me to try new sports in high school, which lead me to horseback riding, track and field and hockey. However, nothing was fulfilling the competitive drive I had developed from my childhood, and everything I tried I was told I wasn't the right size for.


            I came across the rowing team after my brother had been a part of it several years back. When I joined I was one of two girls on the team and my fitness level was well below average, I could barely run for 10 minutes and my initial thought was “If I’m not good enough maybe I can just come to the practices for fun and not race.” Little did I know what I was getting myself into.


            Eventually I discovered that through hard work and making sacrifices I was beginning to improve inch by inch in the sport, soon the phrase “Sorry I can’t, I have rowing” was being used on a daily basis. I realized that as I improved, more sacrifices would have to be made. In grade 11 I sacrificed hockey and track to focus on rowing, and in grade 12 I had to make a tough decision to step aside from horseback riding and my job to commit all of my time and energy into rowing so that I could have the success I was looking for.


             People kept telling me how I’m missing out on living a “normal” teenage life, but what they don’t realize is that the rowing lifestyle has became my normal, from the early mornings, to the restrictive eating, and physical exhaustion which may seem like insanity to others, is just a typical day for me.


          I have made sacrifices such as missing my own birthdays for development camps, and I sacrificed prom so that I could stand on the podium at the Canadian secondary school rowing championships. My family and coaches have also made sacrifices to take the time out of their lives to get me to where I need to be, and help support me on my rowing journey.


Coming to Queens for the first time I did not know anyone when I first came here. I had to leave my friends, my family and everything I grew up with and became close to behind so that I could continue to achieve my goals.


Truthfully there have been times when it seems easiest to just throw in the towel and walk away. However because of the sacrifices that have been made to get where I am today, and the indescribable love I have for the sport. I’m able to persevere through any setbacks I may face, and focus on the goals ahead of me instead of  dwelling on the problems or bad races I had faced in the past, and I’m reminded every time I sit in my boat, don’t look back. 


Danielle Abusow


                                                                               Lightweight Women's Rower
                                                                               Queen's University





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