While many athletes are unfairly labelled as dumb jocks, many Ryerson athletes combine brain and brawn to dispel that stereotype as true student-athletes

by: Rob Moysey and Karen Quinto

Robby Earl is like any other science student at Ryerson: he has a boatload of exams to study for and a handful of assignments due each week.  But while his fellow students are holed up in their dorm rooms knocking back energy drinks and drowning in their notes, Earl is in the Kerr Hall gym practicing his digs and volleys.

The second-year contemporary science major and captain of the men’s volleyball team is the poster boy of a unique brand of athlete at Ryerson: those that buck the stereotypes of the dumb jock and the awkward nerd simultaneously by performing at a high level both on the court and in the classroom.

The stereotypes are fixtures of our culture: athletes are portrayed as beer chugging, blonde-dating neanderthals, while nerds are book reading, DDR-playing pipsqueaks.  But being an athlete is no easy feat at Ryerson: all athletes must maintain at least a 2.3 GPA to be eligible to play.  If they slip below that, they wind upon probation until they boost their grades. Add to that four to six weekly practices and at least one — but up to three — games per week, and it’s a heavy burden to bear.  It’s tough for any student-athlete,but particularly challenging for the16 that are in science-related programs.

“It’s pretty demanding,” said Jordan Hill, a rookie forward for the women basketball team and a first-year aerospace engineering student.“I don’t do very much else besides school and basketball. You’d have to be crazy [to do more than that]. You’d have to not sleep.”

Though common sense might lead to the conclusion that these athlete shave to trade in-class excellence for on-court success, a study in IDEA Fitness Journal suggests otherwise. The study found people who exercise three to four times a week reported higher job performance.

“Sometimes when I am studying really hard and I have to go to practice,when I come back I am way more focused. I feel so much better,” Hill said.

The tight schedule athletes face forces them to manage their time much more efficiently. That’s why Earl can handle the extra responsibilities of being team captain while maintaining a 4.26 GPA.“You know you have certain blocks of time you know that you have to study, whereas if you didn’t have that, you’d just procrastinate and not study,” said Hill.

The transition to an extremely jam-packed schedule comes easier to some than others. Bjorn Michaelsen,a first-year forward for the men’s basketball team and a mechanical engineering student, found that he had to create a strict routine in order to balance school and sports.“We usually have practice at nine,so I study early in the morning, go to class, then go to practice, and if I am a little bit more energetic, I will study after,” he said.

But no matter how well they manage their schedule, there is always spillover between school and sports: it’s an inevitability of bouncing back and forth between class, practice, and games.

“Sometimes that’s what’s hard about practices: when I study right before and I’ve got all those numbers in my head…[it’s hard] to focus on basketball. And sometimes when you’re studying, you’re thinking about the game,” he said.

While many students escape the confines of school-related stress on the weekends, these student-athletes often don’t get that chance.“Seeing friends on the weekends…you don’t even have weekends!” said Earl. “There are three things in life and you can only do two really well:school, sports, and social life. If you try to do all three, you’ll never be at the top. I don’t think everyone can do it and I don’t think everyone would want to do it.”