The Mustangs football roster is made up of over 110 players, ranging from its go-to first string, to a largely benched reserve team. Some of these players never see much field time but, for Western’s top student athletes, trying to score on and off the field is no easy feat.
There’s no debate that the Mustangs take their sport seriously. The football team placed first in the Ontario University Athletics’ standings three times over the last five years and have also won the Yates Cup conference championship 29 times in team history — more than any other Canadian university.
But athletes need to be able to perform well in the classroom too. According to Canadian Interuniversity Sports regulations, varsity athletes must be in enrolled in and complete 3.0 courses per year successfully in order to be eligible for CIS sports the following year.
Simon Bahru, a Mustang cornerback and a graduate of Western’s kinesiology program, said football is no small time commitment.
“Football is pretty demanding,” Bahru said. “It’s five or six days a week. It’s hard to balance, you have to find time to study and stay on top of your work.”
Matt Uren, a receiver and fourth-year student, said he estimates the time obligation can be comparable to having a full time job. He said that for dressed players, it can add 30 to 40 hours a week.
Of Western and its affiliated colleges, King’s University College is home to around 150 varsity athletes last year. Robin Ellis, a coordinator for admissions and liaison at King’s, said these students are called student-athletes because the student comes first.
“Football starts off right out of the gate so easing into the transition of studying and high intensity training happens simultaneously,” Ellis said. “We work with the athletes through scheduling of classes, providing counselling and helping them access study supports such as the Write Place and peer mentors.”
Ellis added that most of the teams have mandatory, supervised study times in addition to tutors available. She mentioned that King’s small class sizes allow professors to stay in the loop and work together with students.
Joe Circello, a left guard and now a graduate student in the faculty of education, said the key to academic success is staying organized.
“It’s pretty challenging, there’s only one day a week where there’s really no football at all,” Circello said. “You really have to take advantage of Sunday and Monday to get on top of the work for the week, […] you have to hone in on your time management skills.”
Zach Medeiros, Mustang kicker and political science student, said he thinks his experience on the green is worth the sacrifice.
“[Football] teaches you character, it teaches you how to grow up and I feel like that applies both on the field and in school as well,” Medeiros said.