New Game Plan program helps Canadian athletes balance school and sport

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WATCH ABOVE: As Brendan Parker reports, the goal is to give elite athletes the flexibility when trying to juggle training, travel and competition with the demands of school – Jan 6, 2017

A new initiative has been launched to help alleviate some of the stresses felt by young athletes who are balancing university classes and sport.

“Trying to do the same amount of work that a regular student would do, plus going to practice every day and just killing yourself…it’s hard to do,” University of Calgary student and paratriathlete Stefan Daniel said.

In 2015, the Canadian Olympic Committee launched a program called Game Plan, designed to help athletes prepare for life after sport.

Canadian sport organizations have now partnered with nine universities to create a network that will focus on providing flexibility for athletes trying to meticulously balance training and competitions with the demands of post-secondary school.

The University of Calgary is part of the network of schools participating, trying to accommodate all types of schedules.

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“We have many people on campus who are former elite athletes themselves,” University of Calgary’s vice-president of student experience Susan Barker said.

“Calgary attracts athletes and so we get it. We understand and we want to support future athletes.”

Two-time Olympic long-track speedskater Shannon Rempel understands how valuable it is to have understanding professors when it comes to training and competition schedules.

“It’s pretty hard with assignments and having profs accommodate schedules…it can be pretty tricky,” Rempel said. “I’m in my 14th year of university now and I’m almost done, but it’s been a long process.”

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After nearly two decades on the national team, the Winnipeg native is on the final lap of her skating career, with her sights set on Korea in 2018.

“That’s the end goal for me and then that’ll be the final push,” she said.

She’s just at the start of her post-athletic career, but soon to be armed with a degree.

“I’m excited for the next part of it, but I want to make sure I enjoy this while I have it right now.”

Rempel is enjoying the fact she has just two more classes left to depart the University of Calgary with a communications degree.

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“I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself,” she laughed.

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