From the time they first pick up a hockey stick or step onto a football field, there is one thing every young athlete yearns to hear: “You’re in the big leagues now, kid” — a simple, if slightly ambiguous expression that signals athletic achievement and advancement.
Athletes of every sport wish only to pursue their passion to their uppermost limit, rising as high as their abilities will allow them. While U Sports may not be the pinnacle of organised sport, the effort and sacrifice required to rise even this high are substantial, as demonstrated by incoming freshman Lola Massey.
Massey, a British Columbia native, has recently committed to playing women’s ice hockey at York for the upcoming fall term. Currently, she is enrolled in twelfth grade at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, British Columbia, where, in preparation for advancing to the university level, she lives and breathes hockey on a daily basis.
“We are practising five times a week and we have two games this weekend. So, we are on the ice seven times a week.”
Massey describes the ramp-up of their training as next season approaches. “Moving closer to the start of summer and next year, we have a very good off-season program. We do a lot of outdoor training and endurance.” Massey goes on to say that, “going into York, I’m going to be trying to get on the ice as much as I can.”
Massey’s hockey career has followed a rather unorthodox trajectory. Unlike most high-level players who begin at a very young age, Massey was already twelve years old when she began playing full-time, having spent the proceeding years playing ringette instead. Nevertheless, Massey is confident that her experience in the academy system has prepared her for both the increased skill-level and physical strain of the university game.
When asked for their thoughts on beginning the next chapter in their educational and athletic career, the incoming Lion’s face lit up. “It’s kind of setting in now that I will be moving away and I’m super excited. I think Toronto is a great place. I’m just really excited.”
It’s not just incoming athletes who are constantly adjusting to the university game, as York football rookie and third-year psychology student Jason Janvier-Messier explains.
“It’s all about upgrading all aspects of my game, so I really want to amplify getting stronger and getting faster.”
The Quebec native spent his first season of university sports challenging opposing offences, a feat that earned him OUA all-rookie honours. It would be hard then to imagine the third-year defensive end getting any stronger or faster, but he nonetheless remains committed to improving all facets of his game.
“I also want to be watching a lot of tape and making sure I don’t make the same mistakes — not necessarily me making the wrong decision, I just don’t want to be juked by a running back or something like that. I missed a couple of them last season so I’m definitely going to work on not missing those big plays. I’ll focus on being present in the moment and being able to react to whatever comes my way.”
When asked about the major differences between the high school and university levels, Janvier-Messier notes that one of the biggest differences is technique. “I see a lot of rookies or younger guys coming in who just don’t have the same level of technique that a veteran will have. This is completely normal, but I feel like the coaching skill we get in university is completely different from what we get in high school.”
Janvier-Messier goes on to stress the importance of emulating older athletes’ maturity and discipline. “Older athletes or veterans take small details more seriously. They get a full night’s sleep, they’ll watch tape, and you can see that on the field. You can feel it when someone has watched tape on you.”
Janvier-Messier notes that his development may have actually been aided by last season’s cancellation, given that he was able to spend more time training and living in the university environment surrounded by older players. He identifies this as a major contributing factor to his successful rookie campaign.