WOLFVILLE, NS - It is not uncommon for varsity athletes to return for a fifth year of school to take advantage of their final year of eligibility. In some cases, athletics are not the only reason why an athlete will return - sometimes they will come back to reach a higher standard academically as well.
Sarah Ross, a life-side hitter on the Acadia Axewomen volleyball team, is a perfect example of this type of athlete. Having graduated last spring with a bachelor's degree in Environment Sustainability Studies, Ross returned to Wolfville for her fifth year, for another chance to compete with the A on her jersey and to write her honours thesis.
Drive to accomplish Academic Goals
When asked why she chose to research on gender equality in varsity sport at Acadia University, Ross said it was a topic near and dear her heart.
“I picked this topic because as a female athlete I was exposed to gender discrimination in sport at a young age," she said. "And being able to come back for a fifth year and study sociology and research this topic is something I am very passionate about.”
Recently, a number of varsity athletes at Acadia University have chosen to research and write a thesis, which comes as no surprise with the high percentage of Academic All-Canadians produced in Wolfville.
“I think everybody is different, but I think if you put your mind to it anybody can accomplish it. As a varsity athlete, you have obviously maintained drive to accomplish athletic goals, so I think these skills transfer and if you’re committed to it then you can accomplish (academic goals) as well,” said Ross.
As a student at a university where even the athletic department truly expects academic and community success, along with sports success, Ross said time management skills are vitally necessary to balance everything.
“Time management is challenging, but I think because I’m in my fifth year and because I’ve had the experience of being in school, I have the experience of time management," she said.
Not only is she a varsity athlete, but Ross also dedicates time as co-president of the Acadia Players’ Association. She is also active in Kinderskills, the Axe Academy volleyball camp and has volunteered with many groups and initiatives on campus.
And then there's her thesis.
"The most challenging thing is with a thesis, it is really easy to get behind because there aren’t many due dates, so you really need to maintain self-discipline and structure to get it all done," she added.
Fifth and final
Five years after coming to Wolfville, she does not regret her decision for a moment. Acadia, and the family atmosphere here, was integral in her decision to return for her fifth and final year of varsity volleyball.
It's clear from the interaction between the volleyball players, both on and off the court, that they truly are a family.
“We have done a lot of team bonding throughout the season so far, which I think is really good,” said Ross.
With most of the team living within a five-minute walk of each other, they can usually be found watching sports, cooking or having movie nights outside of practice simply because they enjoy being together.
Ross is confident in her team this season.
“I think a goal - and the reason I am back for a fifth year - is because I want a banner," she said. "With the group we have this year, I am really confident we can get there. We have so much talent across so many different players and everyone contributes so much. I think it is really attainable, we just really need to fight for it every game.”
When looking ahead to her time after finishing her studies at Acadia, Ross says anything is a possibility.
“Ultimately, whatever I plan to do, I hope to stay in touch with Acadia,” she said, adding that she'll be returning to cheer on her team again in the future.
She is focused on the current volleyball season and the completion of her thesis before she plans too far ahead.