It is one thing to be a student, and it is one thing to be a student-athlete; but to be an Academic All-Canadian is quite another. The most common stereotype of any student-athlete is the perception of being the typical jock wherein sports come first, and academics only second. Well at least for 162 student-athletes here at the University of Ottawa, they have proven to be the exception to that rule. This morning, the University of Ottawa honoured those athlete-students who excelled not only on the playing field, but also in the classroom.
To be an academic all-Canadian, one must maintain an average of 80 percent and above throughout the academic year while participating in their sport of choice. And if anyone has the slightest idea of how demanding competitive sports can be, on top of what is already expected as a student, such an accomplishment can seem all but impossible.
Yet, and as highlighted by this morning’s keynote speaker Dr. Naim El-Far, it is their unparalleled, and burning desire to achieve that sets these students apart; and allows for them to accomplish above and beyond what is expected of them. Dr. El-Far is a prime example of what is possible when one refuses to give in to the added pressures of being a student-athlete. Naim graduated from the University of Ottawa in 2008 with PhD in Computer Science, a degree which he earned while playing football for the Gee-Gees.
Dr. El-Far’s most sincere, and passionate speech for all those academic all-Canadians in attendance was meant to instil a sense of accomplishment, and to encourage them never to give up on their desire to succeed in life. “Never let the fire get extinguished, and never ever sell yourself short,” said El-Far. He strongly believes that student-athletes have what it takes to not only be good in school and sport, but the ability to ‘dream, reach, and achieve’ as a person in order to affect change around them, and better society.
The academic all-Canadian ceremony was also a chance to acknowledge the efforts of all those who help student-athletes along the way in achieving their highest potential. Coaches, trainers, sports staff, family, and friends were praised for their commitment, and hard work in support of student-athletes.
Fifth-year women’s soccer Gee-Gees midfielder Élise Desjardins, Cumberland, Ont., and current academic all-Canadian Masters student in Human Kinetics, admitted that the pressure in being a student-athlete can be overbearing at times. In her first year of studies and varsity sport, she was ready to quit altogether. However, only through her strong desire to achieve, and unwavering support from those around her, was she able to persevere and achieve more than she ever expected.
Again, and on behalf of the entire Sports Services team, we would like to congratulate all of this year’s academic all-Canadians for their amazing accomplishment, and may we wish them but continued success in all of their endeavours both as students, as well as athletes.
- For varsity sports, the team with the highest overall average: women’s soccer, GPA of 7.3 (runner up: women’s track and field, GPA 6.9)
- For competitive clubs, the team with the highest overall average: women’s ultimate frisbee, GPA of 7.5 (runner up: Ringette, GPA 7.2)
- Top varsity sports female student-athlete: Janine McKay, women’s rugby, GPA of 9.8
- Top varsity sports male student-athlete: Vincent Fluent, track and field, GPA of 9.8
- Top competitive sports club female student-athlete: Jennifer Klowak, fencing, GPA of 9.8
- Top competitive sports club male student-athlete: Nicola Martel, water polo, GPA of 9.8