Former CFL player inspires DC students

Former CFL player, Ryan Hinds, speaks to DC students about how sports and education contain valuable life skills. Photo credit: Jasper Myers

Durham College (DC) students were tossing hacky sacks and talking education with a sporting backdrop recently.

Former CFL player turned university graduate, Ryan Hinds, was invited to DC speak to students about the lessons he learned in sports and how he applied them to his subsequent education.

Hinds was drafted by the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 2009 and played there until 2013 before signing with the Edmonton Eskimos. He played in Edmonton from 2013-2015.

He was a free agent in 2016 and then agreed to a contract with the Ottawa Redblacks, before abruptly retiring to pursue health-related studies.

The theme of his talk was to “bridge the gap between sports and academia,” according to Fitness and Health Promotion professor Lorne Opler.

Born in Guyana, South America, Hinds, 32, is the youngest of four children. While he says his family “didn’t have much,” he loved his country and moving to Canada in the mid-1990s when he was “eight or nine” was challenging.

“When I look back on my transition, some had it better, some had it worse,” says Hinds.

He says in grade school, he spoke perfect English – but his accent made it difficult for other students to understand him.

“The struggles of people not knowing what you’re saying, oh my gosh, it’s so frustrating,” he says.

It wasn’t until high school when Hinds realized he wanted to work in health care in order to help people.

“I always wanted to be involved in health care, so, I always knew that was going to happen at some point,” he says. “I just didn’t necessarily know when that was going to be.”

Hinds says it’s important students have access to knowledge, as a lack of it can become a barrier for those who aren’t aware of their options.

“The frustrating thing is you don’t know what you don’t know,” says Hinds. “You could be missing opportunities others aren’t.”

After his retirement from the CFL, Hinds decided to continue his education. He earned a master’s degree in Health Administration from the University of Toronto.

“(Football) camp really makes you realize or think about whether you really love it enough to do it or not. And I was at a point where I had decided against it,” he says. “It was time to do something different.”

Hinds engaged students by asking questions, such as where they were from, what it was like to transition from another country and their personal struggles.

As part of his presentation, Ryan took four volunteers to the front of the classroom. He made them stand in front of a garbage bin and throw hacky sacks into it.

Hinds increased the difficulty in various ways. He put a chair over the bin; told students to choose a “challenging but successful” place to shoot from; and also asked a friend of theirs to choose where they should shoot from.

“Failure can be a deterrent to trying again,” says Hinds. “What sports teaches you is to get up and try again.”

The purpose of the exercise was to emphasize how team sports can teach valuable skills such as empathy, humility, teamwork, and discipline.

Today, Hinds leads the development of a bridging program in partnership with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH). The program aims to provide educational opportunities for marginalized groups, including foreign or financially-challenged students.

He says he hopes student can take away a sense of their “best selves” from his presentation.

“Understand who you are over what you do,” he says. “Students should really think about what they want to accomplish in life and the impact (they) want to make before they land on what kind of job they want to have.”