By Cindy Nguyen
Jenna Mae Ellsworth (left) and Annabelle Charron (right) (photo credits: Cindy Nguyen)
Jenna Mae Ellsworth smiled while looking at the badge on her UPEI women’s basketball uniform.
“My mom used to play at UPEI, then coached here for a while before, and I’m from the Island, so I decided this is the best place for me.”
Compared to high school, going to university as an athlete was a big change for Ellsworth. The biggest differences were the intensity and the amount of work, she said.
“We do a lot more here. In high school, we had practice every day and games on the weekend. But we wouldn’t have extra shooter rounds, extra practices and definitely not study as much as here at university.”
Time management was the biggest adjustment, she said. The basketball season happens throughout the whole school year, so scheduling conflicts of schedule between courses and practices are hard to avoid.
If a university course is mandatory, players have to accept missing practice, Ellsworth said.
“School comes first.”
But if there are courses that don’t conflict with the practice schedule, those options are her preferences, Ellsworth said.
During the season, athletes travel to attend games regionally and nationally on most weekends. That is when time management skills are challenged most.
Athletes need to get all school work done before the games or study on the bus while travelling, Ellsworth said.
“It isn’t quite a fun experience because people are loud and you’re tired.”
But athletes can get support if they need it.
The team has access to tutors for supporting their academic studies, said Matt Gamblin, head coach of the UPEI women’s basketball team.
“We have academic advisors for the team. We’re also lucky that we can cover tutors for classes so our players aren’t left by themselves.”
Expectations are high at university level and getting players through the early adjustment period is the biggest challenge, Gamblin said.
“It’s about monitoring your players early on to make sure they are OK. Once they get to a certain point of the third or fourth year at university, they know what to do to manage their time.”
Ellsworth agrees. Being organized is key to enjoying the full university experience.
“If you want good marks but also to have fun, you have to be well-organized.”