A Fine Balance

A day in the life of a Wesmen athlete

Simeon Rusnak

Stephanie Kleysen works harder than you. As a five-year Wesmen veteran and captain of the women’s basketball team, Netflix black holes and other time-sucking, brain-numbing hobbies simply don’t exist on the young athlete’s watch.

“I definitely learned to time manage real fast,” Kleysen tells The Uniter after one of her daily three hour practices. “It only takes one week to realize ‘holy smokes, you can’t just sit around and watch TV.’”

The average school day for the Vincent Massey Collegiate alum begins with two classes promptly at 8:30 a.m., where she’s working towards an Exercise Science degree with plans of applying to physio.

“I never thought I’d go the physio route because my mom’s in physio, but sure enough my path has lead me right to where I didn’t want to go,” Kleysen says with a laugh.

After class, the self-professed “grandma of the team” heads to the Duckworth Centre for a weights session and then into the gym to work on shooting. In the hour or two before the daily team practice, Kleysen finds time to eat and study. Post-practice means more homework before tucking into bed and doing it all again the next day.

“I’m really good at sleeping,” Kleysen says of her trick to staying focused. “It’s truly my resting time where I’m able to turn everything off. I think I would struggle if I didn’t have the ability to do that.”

Kleysen’s raw motivation has allowed her to be a top-player and hold the title of captain for three years running. Not to say the position isn’t without its stresses.

“I don’t feel a lot of pressure necessarily, but I feel that I owe it to my team,” Kleysen explains. “Were I ever to not perform well I’d take complete ownership of that. A difficult part of being an athlete is taking the blame, not to sound egocentric, but I’m just hard on myself in that sense.”

Apart from the aforementioned training schedule there are also “individuals,” one-on-one sessions, held throughout the week with the coaches.

“Stephanie’s probably one of the hardest working players to ever go through the program,” Wesmen women’s basketball head coach Tanya McKay professes.

McKay has been coaching the Wesmen for 19 years and is no stranger to the energy, drive and pressure felt by university-level athletes. Being a former student athlete herself - she played five years with the Wesmen - McKay can’t stress enough how the life skills learned on the court have resonated throughout her career.

“You’re dealing with people and handling stressful situations,” McKay says. “Athletics and school combined at a university level prepares you for that.”

And Kleysen agrees. 

“You don’t realize how much you take away from playing on a university team until you’re away from it and applying it to the real world,” Kleysen says. “Sport itself only takes you so far.”

Catch the next Wesmen Women’s basketball game Nov. 21 at 6 p.m. against UBC. Visit uwinnipeg.ca for the full schedule.

Published in Volume 69, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 19, 2014)

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