UOIT athletes prove balancing academics and athletics isn’t impossible

Whoever said balancing university and sports is impossible clearly has never met UOIT athletes Cherlene Cheung and Riley Therrien.

They were honoured at UOIT’s seventh annual academic luncheon on March 28. The award ceremony celebrates the academic success of UOIT students rather than their performance on the field.

The luncheon recognized 45 students in total, including Cheung and Therrien. Both were the recipients of the UOIT scholastic award and Bob Baun scholarship, a $3,000 fund presented by the Toronto Maple Leafs legend himself. It rewards one male and female athlete with a perfect GPA of 4.30. They also won the all-academic award and top team GPA award.

The key to their success? Time management and sacrifice. But that doesn’t mean their experiences were anything close to easy.

Cheung, who joined the Ridgebacks’ rowing team in September, found herself juggling practices, regattas, classes, and two part-time jobs.

“You have to be on a very strict and disciplined schedule,” said Cheung. Her average schedule in-season required her to wake up at 4:30 a.m. for rowing practice at the docks. This lasted until around 7 a.m., where she might attend another training session at Elite Training Systems. She then commuted downtown to attend class at 8 a.m. Six hours later, she left for work until 4 p.m. The rest of the day was dedicated to studying, where she had to be in bed by 9 p.m.  On weekends, she occasionally brought her homework to tournaments.

This isn’t exactly the most relaxing schedule, and Cheung found herself having to quit her piano-teaching job teaching to accommodate her sport.

“Thank goodness I actually got in [the team],” she said. She now does freelance piano lessons instead, where she gets to choose her hours.

Therrien, a third year Criminology and Justice Studies major, has been on UOIT’s tennis team for the past three years.  He has won the Bob Baun award twice, with last year being his first one. He lives an hour away from school and manages his time accordingly.

“You just need to capitalize on any free time that you get,” said Therrien. He scheduled his classes for three days a week, leaving the remaining days for studying and practice.

His average schedule in season was waking up at 6 a.m. and commuting downtown for class at 8 a.m. Three hours later, Therrien got off with four hours before practice, which he spent on break or studying. His practice then started at 3 p.m. and ended two hours later.  By the time Therrien drove home, it was already 6 p.m. The rest of his day was dedicated to homework and studying.

Although he feels lucky tennis is a short-season sport that makes academics easier, Therrien still thinks he would have done the same had tennis been around for the whole year.

“I would’ve obviously put in more effort and more time into school if the season would’ve been longer,” he said, “but I think I would’ve been just fine.”

Such a schedule was demanding of their social lives. With Cheung, being in bed early made it hard to go out for a late dinner with a friend or a party. As for Therrien, socializing with his friends and girlfriend became limited. There was an upside, however.

“Your team becomes like your social life,” said Cheung, who found hanging out with her teammates at practices and gatherings compensated for time lost with other friends.

Both athletes also had no plan or knowledge on how to adjust to their lifestyles once they got into sports.

“It obviously takes a great deal of commitment,” said Therrien. “When I first started playing tennis, I had no idea how I was gonna work it in with my academics.”

To them, it was more of a learning process along the way. Cheung tried to go the all-academics all-the-time route in her first year of university. She started rowing this year and now wishes she would have started rowing sooner.

However, neither regrets their full dedication either. “It was a 100 per cent worth it,” said Cheung. “I would do it all over again.”

Cheung and Therrien also said their professors were accommodating of their situations, whether it be arriving late to class or dealing with midterms tied with tournaments.

To see a full list of winners, visit www.uoitridgebacks.com.