The pressure to perform both academically and athletically at American post-secondary schools has caused many Canadian athletes abroad to rethink their futures.
After spending a year at Jefferson Community College in Waterdown, N.Y., playing collegiate baseball, Ryan Mcdougall, 20, decided to make his way back home. He is now studying Broadcast Television at Humber College and playing for the varsity baseball team.
“I felt a ton of pressure when I was down there to perform athletically. Coaches had us in the weight room all the time, practicing every day and they watched your every move,” Mcdougall said.
“It was overwhelming trying to balance baseball and academics. Some guys couldn’t even make it out of the fall semester. I was definitely overwhelmed by the end of the year,” he said.
Canadian schools stress the importance of making academics a priority over short-term collegiate sports careers, and coaches seem to do a good job of making this message clear, Mcdougall said.
“Coaches (in Canada) are definitely more lenient and more understanding if we need to miss a practice or a game to catch-up on our homework or to study for a test. Compared to the ones in the States, where it was always tough to ask for some time off,” Mcdougall said.
“The coaches here are more easy going and it makes the game a little more fun without all the added pressure,” he said.
Mcdougall’s story is similar to the experience of first-year Brock University student Luke Melymick.
Melymick, 22, spent two years attending and pitching for two different American universities. He went to Alabama State and Minnesota State, playing baseball for both teams, before heading back to Canada to complete his education.
“The heavy baseball load made it hard for me to keep up and balance with my studying,” he said.
He said collegiate coaches in the United States are tougher on students.
“Coaches in the States get paid to coach and it’s usually their full-time job,” he said. “That’s why they are tougher on you and try to stay on top of you.”
Melymick agreed that Canadian schools value education more heavily than U.S. schools.
“Academics (in Canada) are way harder and better, but Americans take sports a lot more seriously,” he said.
To any student athlete looking to take the U.S. college route, Mcdougall offers some advice.
“ Make sure its worth it, you have to be getting the education you want,” he said.