By David Song, February 9 2018 —
A varsity athlete’s life often seems to revolve solely around their sport. The glamour of brandishing your name on the back of a jersey and being surrounded by a team of high-calibre athletic support can largely impact your identity. Your every move and mistake are constantly observed and critiqued. This can lead to an obsession with athletic performance, leaving tests and assignments neglected.
While the University of Calgary Dinos emphasize academic excellence, many student athletes are stereotyped as being indifferent about their grades. Acing a test may not come with the same explosive response as scoring a touchdown. However, Aaron and Nick Statz, defensive back brothers on the Dinos football team, are familiar with the pressure to perform both in the classroom and on the field. In their fourth and third years of study respectively, Aaron and Nick know the importance of doing well in school, despite the time and effort that varsity teams demands.
“I’ve been playing sports my whole life and it’s something you just get used to,” Aaron said. “School’s a necessary thing that you have to do. It’s something you can’t just procrastinate away.”
Nick also identified a practical side to excellence at school for collegiate athletes.
“Because most student athletes have a pretty rigorous schedule during their seasons, there’s not a lot of opportunity to work outside of school,” Nick said. “That’s also a big motivation for people to do well in the books, so they can get those extra scholarships and apply for certain awards.”
While the prestige of competing at a university level can be distracting, the Statz brothers credit a healthy culture within the Dinos athletic department for keeping them grounded.
“It’s obviously cool, seeing your name on the back of a jersey and stuff,” Nick said. “But I don’t think it gets to your head, because it’s not the culture of the program we have at U of C. It’s more about the team itself — not the individuals on the team.”
“Your friends and family can always check in, whether they’re in the city or not,” Aaron said. “It’s cool having friends and family be actively involved in your sport.”
In 2017, Aaron and Nick were part of a dominant football team that finished the regular season 9–2 before winning the Hardy Cup in a 44–43 thriller against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. Unfortunately, the Dinos playoff run ended the following weekend in a tough 35–23 loss to the rival Laval Rouge et Or. Despite the disappointing loss, both brothers reflect on the season wholeheartedly.
“As a first-year player, if the season doesn’t end exactly the way you wanted, you have the mindset of, ‘I’m young, I’ll have a couple more years to get a shot at winning the championship,’ ” Nick said. “As you get older, you start to realize how precious every season is and how each individual season and team is different.”
“The losses hurt more, but it’s also more motivating because you know that your time is expiring,” Aaron added. “Also, this year we had a lot of fifth-year guys. You know a lot of your buddies that you’ve been playing with for quite a few years are leaving, so it was tougher in that sense this year, but I’m excited to see where everyone’s futures go.”
Several outgoing members of the Dinos football team signed contracts with CFL squads this offseason, such as receiver Michael Klukas with the Calgary Stampeders and offensive lineman Jordan Filippelli with the Ottawa Redblacks. While most athletes aspire towards such feats, the Statz brothers strive to embrace the moment.
“[CFL player] Sean McEwen said to me, ‘At some point during athletics at university, you’ll have a life-changing experience. Always be open and ready for a crazy experience to happen to you, that could potentially change your mindset going forward,’ ” Aaron said.
“Just enjoy the process of going through the journey,” Nick concluded. “If you just enjoy each day and focus on being present, you’re going to have a much more enjoyable experience than if you’re always looking to the future.”