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.
Carleton Ravens Golf