I woke up Thursday morning to a beeping alarm clock, completely disoriented, and was greeted by the sight of a dark sky. While this is a rare event in my life, this is how most mornings begin for the average McGill athlete. This Thursday, I attempted to live out the life of a McGill varsity athlete by trailing a basketball player. Heading out of my residence, I trudged down the sidewalk with other sleepy Montrealers, making my way to a nearly deserted Second Cup to grab a cup of tea. The man behind the counter gave me an oddly suspicious look when he realized I was not awake this early to study for an upcoming midterm.
For most people, that might seem to be the only plausible and rational reason for someone being up that early. Little did he know that ,as we spoke, members of the McGill basketball team were heading out for their morning practice. One of these athletes was the McGill Redmen’s center, Nicholas Yantzi, the U0 Science student who I would shadow for the rest of the day.
Armed with my cup of tea, I left the bewildered Second Cup server and walked over to New Rez, where Yantzi lives. After a healthy breakfast of cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, and a bagel, it was time to head over for practice. What ensues is recounted here, our entire day broken down into individual time frames:
6:30 a.m.: Walking up Parc, we make our way to McGill’s Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Gymnasium. Scanning our student ID cards, we walk down hallways lined with McGill’s signature red on the walls, and head up to the court. I take a spot on the bleachers and watch the players filter in slowly and start to warm-up.
6:50 a.m.: With nearly the entire team now present, basic warm up exercises begin. As the players stretch, a look of anticipation settles on their faces as it nears 7 a.m. They are waiting for practice to begin.
7:00 a.m.: Finally, it’s game time. After a quick swig of water, the players head onto the court.
7:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.: Practice consists of several drills, practice shots and intense playing. When it’s over, the players leave to change and get ready for class. Yantzi has an 8:35 math class.
8:35 a.m. to 9:55 a.m.: Yantzi and I work our way through chain rules and integrals, diligently taking notes while trying to stay awake.
9:55 a.m.: Thursday is a particularly rough day for Yantzi, being a day with four lectures back to back. This means Yantzi barely has time to grab lunch. A few bagels and coffee, however, provide an ideal brunch solution during Yantzi’s breaks between classes.
10:35 a.m.: Biology class begins. We learn about the phylum Nematoda and the anatomy of an earthworm.
11:25 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.: With 10 minutes between his Biology, Chemistry, and Physics classes, Yantzi shuffles between ideas of the VESPR theory and circular motion.
3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.: When he’s finally done with classes, Yantzi heads to the gym again to practice shots and skill work for a post-class workout with his team members.
4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.: Yantzi grabs an early dinner – his second complete meal of the day. He chooses freshly made pasta with meat sauce and finally sits down to eat back in the New Rez cafeteria with his teammate Riley.
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: With his dietary, academic, and athletic commitments complete for the day, Yantzi goes to his room to begin packing for his trip to Halifax, where the Redmen are traveling to for their next game, bringing an end to his hectic day.
Athletes like Yantzi work hard to maintain a strong academic front while taking some time off to enjoy their university experience by playing the sport they love. Everything about basketball elicits excitement from this 6’10’’ player from Burlington, Ontario. “It’s everything from the competition and the wins to the great sense of team spirit. It’s great to see us work on and improve our skills as a team. For me, personally, it’s when I have the most fun in my day,” says Yantzi.
Yantzi’s definition of fun, however, may not necessarily be the same as most McGill students. The varsity basketball team practices five days a week, once a day on Mondays and Tuesdays for two hours and for four hours Wednesday to Friday. With 16 hours of practice each week, Yantzi must make time for his busy academic schedule. While most students try to work parties and social events into their busy lives, student athletes like Yantzi are having a bit of a different university experience.
As a varsity athlete, Yantzi carries the responsibility of being a McGill Redman and a full time student. It is very impressive that varsity athletes successfully manage all that they do, ensuring that their McGill experience is not all work, but consists of something they have a real passion for as well.