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The passion of a student athlete

Bishop’s athletes take pride in playing sports and representing their school

Ben Lewis
The Campus (Bishop's University)

LENNOXVILLE, Que. (CUP) — There is an aura of passion that manifests itself in sport.

We see it everywhere from the school gymnasium, where a basketball player calmly sinks free throw after another, to the baseball diamond, where players work together to turn flawlessly executed double plays.

This passion is also found in the student athlete, regardless of the level of play involved.

Meet Harrison Maloney. As a varsity football player for the Bishop’s University Gaiters, he is hardly foreign to passion. The defensive back is an RSEQ (Quebec’s athletic conference) all-star and second-team all-Canadian. His main job, as he puts it, is to “cover your guy, and try to make a play on the ball. If the play is a run, get off your blocks.”

It may seem simple enough, but what many of us do not always grasp is the amount of work ethic and dedication that goes on beyond the football field. The hard-hitting and brutality on the field is one thing. The preparation is another.

“A lot of people don’t realize how much time we put into it," Maloney explained. "It’s basically like a full-time job.”

Just as with any profession, playing football comes with numerous responsibilities: practices, fitness training, studying film, and special teams meetings, among other things.

And dedication often translates into results. The team has graced the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. Gaiters head coach Leroy Blugh has molded these athletes so successfully, they’ve pushed on professionally in the CFL, while beginning to knock on the door of the NFL as well.

There is always work to be done, though.

“We’re going in the right direction, but we need make that next step,” Maloney said.

The next step is advancing further in the playoffs. However, when you’re competing against top-calibre teams like the Vanier Cup champion Laval Rouge et Or, nothing comes easy.

“I think we might be the most physically talented team in Canada, but we need to be more poised,” Maloney explained, defining “poise” as limiting mistakes and establishing a deeper mental focus.

Beyond the passion found in Maloney’s character, embedded in it is a deep sense of pride. Competing in a small school environment, their team stays close together and is driven to win for Bishop’s.

If there is one distinctive edge in being a student athlete with a small school size, it’s the tight-knit factor. You’re not a complete team until those friendships are established.

“I know some of the guys I met in my first year who have left. They’re all across Canada and I still talk to them,” Maloney said.

But, beyond the world of varsity athletics seen in Canadian Interuniversity Sport and its four conferences, there is another subset of athletes that don’t receive the same level of focus or support.

Meet Mike Dube, a Bishop’s University student whose craft is the game of lacrosse. He has not-so-quietly led the Gaiters in scoring the past three seasons and collected hardware this season as the most valuable player and most valuable attack man.

On the surface, he and Maloney have a lot of common: the passion, dedication, and success in their sports.

The difference is that Dube plays for a club team. Because lacrosse doesn’t generate the same interest as other sports at Bishop’s – as is the case in almost every school in Canada – the team doesn’t receive the same level of support from the athletics department. Thus, he must pay his own way to play.

While struggles have been prevalent among other athletic programs at Bishop’s, lacrosse has remained consistent, with winning records in 10 consecutive seasons and a stifling 8–2 regular season showing in 2010.

While they suffered a semifinals loss in the playoffs to the McMaster Marauders this year, significant progress was made. The Gaiters revamped their program, putting more emphasis on fitness as a team.

“It used to be that only a few guys would go to the gym,” Dube explained. “Now everyone has to be there at least four or five times a week.”

The results have shown. With improved endurance on the field that comes from extensive fitness training and hard practices, the lacrosse squad now has the ability to wear down their opponents.

“We may not always be the most talented team in the league, but we have the ability to outwork the other guys,” Dube said.

Often, the extra drive is needed in order to succeed. As a club team, lacrosse misses out on many of the privileges provided to varsity athletics. The cost of equipment is one factor, but the biggest challenge comes from traveling to road games.

“A lot of other teams in the league are varsity, so they can travel as a team, whereas sometimes we have to go up in vans separately,” Dube said.

While this disparity exists, Bishop’s lacrosse team simply uses it as fuel to add to the fire. They remain tight knit, work their tails off, and play to win.

“On the field, we’re willing to battle for each other,” Dube added.

The only thing that might be separating them from varsity status is that elusive championship.

Dube, who is eligible for one more season with the team, understands where they are and where they need to be.

“Our team goal the whole way was to win, and we came up a little short.”

While both Dube and Maloney continue driving forward in different athletic programs, they both know who they play for: Bishop’s University. To put your heart and soul into battle each day is a testament to dedication, and to do it for your school is a show of pride.

As Maloney says, “That’s what’s special about sports.”

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