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Volleyball Rookies Transition to University Life

Left to right: Emma De Souza, Yaila Sealy, Nicole Woelk, Megan Gahima, Erin Dane.

by: Nick Welsh


Making the jump from high school to university can be a bit daunting for students and the adjustments of varsity athletes are even more pronounced.  The Lance recently sat down with some rookie volleyball players on the women’s team to discuss their transition to university life and OUA athletics.

Erin Dane, a first-year business student, said the first few weeks in her Lancers career left her sore. In club volleyball, she explained, practices usually total three times a week with a tournament every week or two. Varsity sports require practicing and working out every day – which takes a toll on the body. In the classroom, she suggests, studies are a lot more self-directed that high school and require more learner initiative – something with which her teammates can agree.

“The academics are a lot more stressful. In high school, you were told what to take while in university it’s up to you,” Megan Gahima, a first-year neuroscience student, said.

Emma De Souza, a first-year kinesiology student, noted the academics are more challenging but also achievable – so long as you up your game from high school.

“At university, it’s like here is the course content, and if you don’t choose to study it, that’s your own fault,” said De Souza. “If you don’t study it, you’re basically guaranteed to fail that course or not do well.”

Time management is key with all that’s required to be a successful student-athlete. Yaila Sealy, a first-year kinesiology student and Nicole Woelk, a first-year forensic science student, said they both manage their time by taking it day by day and looking at the week ahead to plan. They find it difficult to plan for the future because the schedule is always changing. Dane also feels preparation is essential.

“I’m such a planner, and I have things done weeks in advance because I have multiple midterms and assignments due at the same time,” Dane said. “For me, it’s a plan to keep myself on track, and if I don’t do it, I would need to pick it up somewhere else.”

Each rookie was assigned a senior player, one that helps with volleyball and academics. These relationships help the younger players develop on and off the court. Eventually, these rookies will be seniors and will have to mentor the younger players.

While balancing academics, these athletes have to focus and prepare for games. The ladies said there isn’t much of a difference between being a starter or a bench player because you always have to be ready to go in. The team does a visualization session before each game, which helps the athletes focus on the game and shut out any thoughts of academics.

Woelk emphasized that you always have to be ready to play. With the team being young and possible injuries, you know there is a set to start the game off, but by the end of it, the team may have a totally different lineup.

“Our team has a deep bench with players that can play multiple positions, and you have to be ready,” Woelk stated. “Some days, I don’t think I’m going to play, and then I’m getting told to go in, and it’s like oh, I have to go in.”

The athletes use a lot of positive self-talk, breathing techniques, and cheering to stay motivated. The cheering helps the girls keep a positive mood on the bench and the court, especially when the team gets a kill or a crucial point. The shouting after every point gets the team excited.

“Personally, when I’m on the court, and I hear our bench cheering, and Nicole likes to chirp sometimes, it’s really funny to hear and makes me smile and laugh on the court,” Sealy said. “It keeps us in a positive mood, and even if things aren’t going our way, it lifts us up.”


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