As a high school student, the idea of participating in varsity in varsity athletics can be daunting. Even more daunting can be the process of obtaining a spot on a varsity team. American post-secondary institutions often have clear and transparent paths to becoming a varsity student-athlete, but the same does not hold true in Canada. This article provides detailed insight into the process behind securing a spot on a varsity team in Canada before you even begin your undergraduate journey.
There are often three types of people who desire to participate in varsity athletics. The first are those who are seasoned athletes who compete at a very high level and have dedicated copious amounts of time to hone their skills in their respective sport. The second are those who participate in their sport on a recreational basis, which likely involves practicing a couple of times a week and partaking in the occasional competition or tournament, but not dedicating significant amounts of time to training. And the third are those who have participated in sport very sparingly or not at all, and desire to begin taking the sport seriously beginning in their undergrad. If you are among the first group, odds are that your coaches and peers have already guided you through the process, and maybe you have even been approached by a university coach. However, if you are in the latter two categories then you may have put in a little more effort to obtain a spot on a varsity roster.
5 Tips to Becoming a Varsity Athlete in Canada:
If you are serious about becoming a varsity student-athlete, the best thing you can do is to start looking and researching early. Starting even as early as grade nine or ten will give you optimal chances of being scouted. Once you have decided that you want to pursue your sport at the varsity level, here are a few things you can do to give yourself the best chance:
Tip #1: Participate as much as you can
Coaches are impressed by people who can demonstrate initiative and dedication by involving themselves in their sport as much as possible. Try to attend every try-out, every practice session, and every game, so that you can get involved as much as possible. Especially if you are competing with national and provincial athletes for roster positions, you want to do your best to highlight your dedication, desire to improve, and love for the game.
Tip #2: Build a good relationship with your current coaches
Your current coaches are often very knowledgeable and can help guide you through the process if you demonstrate your interest. A good recommendation from your current coach can go a long way in convincing your varsity coach that you are a good fit for their team. Your coach should know you well enough to comment on your athletic abilities and interpersonal skills.
Tip #3: Reach out Early
If you are not already an elite athlete, you will likely have to reach out to the coaches yourself, rather than waiting for them to come to you. The best way to do this is to reach out early. A good time to start would be in grade eleven. This demonstrates your dedication and coaches are often impressed that you are already thinking ahead to your future. Research and make a list of 3-5 schools that you would be interested in playing and studying at, and reach out to those coaches via email. Ask them if there might be an opportunity to speak on the phone about the team and how you might fit, or if there would be a chance to attend or observe a practice session. Coaches appreciate this initiative and it ensures that when they are scouting, that they will consider you as a prospect.
Tip #4: Collect videos and create an athletic resume
One thing that coaches love to see more than anything is live footage. Lots of people make the mistake of not taking videos, and then being lost when they are asked to provide footage. Take videos of all of your games, competitions, and even practices, so that when the time comes, you can put it all together into a highlight tape to send to coaches. Also, be sure to include an athletic resume with your athletic experiences (tournaments, teams, achievements, awards, fitness testing scores etc.), this will help coaches assess your readiness for a varsity sport.
Tip #5: Determine the values and culture of the team
Do your research to find out what the team values and strive to embody those values. Certain teams are very community-oriented and would like their athletes to be drivers of community change. You may demonstrate this by spearheading an organization or volunteering in your community. Some teams priorities academic excellence, and will want to see that you are as committed to school as you are to sports. Showing these traits will convince coaches that you are a good fit for their squad.
5 Things you Should Consider to Pick the Right Team for you:
You have made the decision to pursue varsity sport. Now you must start doing your research to determine which squad may be the best fit for you. It is best to start research as early as possible, do not leave this until the last minute, especially if you are looking to sign with a team or receive an athletic scholarship. Here are some things to consider when looking into different programs:
#1 Do this team’s values and needs match my personality and strengths?
Certain teams will have different values, some want strong academics, some want community involvement, some want fast players or stronger players. Find out if your skills and values match those of the team.
#2 How serious is this team?
Not all varsity programs take sport with the same amount of seriousness. Certain squads are there to win and others are simply there to stay in shape and have a good time. Some squads train every day and training takes up a major amount of time, these are the squads that usually win championships. And some squads just train a couple of times a week and are mostly there to experience the game and have fun. Decide what your goals are. If your goal is to use varsity sport as a pathway and platform to even higher-level sports, or if you want to be the absolute best you can be, then a more serious team may be a good choice. If you are in the sport to have fun, stay in shape, and meet people, then a less serious team may be a good choice. A good way to gauge how intense a team is would be to look into their stats, and even see if you can reach out to some current and former athletes.
#3 What else is there besides sport?
What about the academics, the university life, the research/volunteer/work opportunities, friends, community etc. All these things matter and will contribute to your undergrad experience. Consider all these things along with your athletics before making a decision. Sports is only one aspect of the entire experience.
#4 Will the culture be one that is conducive to your success?
The best way to assess if you will be successful and happy on a team is to attend or observe a practice session or game with them. You will be able to see the subtle interactions between athletes, see how they push each other, and how you might fit into that. Some people thrive in hyper-competitive environments, and others thrive in more fun and easy-going ones. Determine whether the squad’s environment is right for you.
Once you have made your decision, don’t be scared to reach out. A good time to reach out would be in the middle or end of grade eleven. This gives coaches enough time to meet with you, discuss an opportunity to see you in action, view your highlight tapes, and maybe even come to see you play or compete. All before your grade twelve years. Now that they know you, they will consider you when looking at recruiting for the subsequent year. This also gives you the opportunity to sign with the team and potentially earn a scholarship.
How to get Athletic Scholarships in Canada:
Admittedly Canada does not have the same calibre of athletic scholarships as the United States. Schools are limited in the amount of money each team may allot to its players. It is then up to the coach how they may distribute the money among their new and existing players. Each player can receive a maximum of $4500 as an entrance athletic scholarship. As a recruit, you must demonstrate exceptional commitment and potential in your sport in order to receive a scholarship.
Once you are on the squad. You may apply for even more scholarships as a returning player in your second year and beyond!