Some people are born talented. No one knows where it comes from but they simply have that natural ability to excel at any sport. When you add motivation, dedication and maybe a bit of luck into the mix, champions are made.
Emily Schaefer is the perfect example of one such person. Growing up in Sarnia Ontario, Schaefer was afforded several opportunities to shine as a natural athlete in a wide range of sports. It was almost by fluke that she discovered the sport of wrestling, which would go on to become one of her life’s greatest passions.
Schaefer took to the sport immediately, dominating local and regional meets. She made the Canadian national wrestling team, placed 12th at worlds in Hungary and won gold at the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Association (OFSAA); all within the first year she began to wrestle. She would go on to win gold at the OFSAA every year of her high school career and again earn a spot on the Canadian national wrestling team’s roster in Serbia with a 10th place finish.
When it came time to decide which university to attend, Schaefer, ended up at Brock, again, seemingly by fluke .
“Initially I chose Western University because of the scholarships they were offering me and how close it is to home. But last minute I ended up changing my mind and that was the greatest decision I could have made! The con-ed program here is exactly what I wanted and the wrestling program is [nationally] renowned at Brock. I wouldn’t have had the same experience if I went to Western,” said Schaefer.
For Schaefer, the transition between high school and varsity wrestling was a sobering experience. The Brock University wrestling program is one of the most stringent and demanding programs in Canada, giving Schaefer the opportunity to train with sparring partners who exceeded her own skill level. She began to realize the brevity of a full-time student-athlete commitment as she had to adjust her lifestyle to accommodate practices twice a day, dieting, technical lessons, volunteering and a full coarse load. With a season which can run from September to August, there’s obviously immense pressure resulting from a schedule like this.
“I try to look ahead one day at a time to see what needs to be done for tomorrow. Lots of sacrifices [have to] be made,” said Schaefer.
Schaefer also relies on her teammates for support. After the innumerable hours of time spent together travelling, practicing and working with one another, there’s a bond that’s forged amongst the members of the wrestling team.
“They’re my family here,” Schaefer commented. “Over the span of a season you get really close and learn how to support each other by giving constructive criticism. Wrestling is a team sport even though it’s so individual.”
All students are burdened with tough expectations: exams, papers, heavy reading loads, balancing a social life, academic responsibilities and maybe even working a part-time job on top of it. Schaefer’s struggles are not so different and her experience on the Brock wrestling team while balancing school work has taught her some important lessons.
“Instead of looking at the big picture I try to narrow my view and see the small successes from every experience. That’s what makes it exciting and fun, to see how your growing as a person,” Schaefer said.
And yet, balance is the ultimate key to a successful undergraduate experience, according to Schaefer. Having the freedom and opportunity to engage yourself in a multitude of diverse social, athletic and academic commitments is one of the most beautiful parts about being a university student.
“I try to see each experience as a learning opportunity. I was expecting to be at the bottom of the competition level my first year and not to make the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) or the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) team. I did get beat up a lot in practice but every practice I got beat up less and less. I would set small goals like scoring one time on this person and if you get it that one point it was a good practice and a good day,” said Schaefer.
Last year, Schaefer’s and the entire wrestling team’s dedication paid off at the OUA’s as well as the CIS.
“We wanted to win the title to defend it,” said Schaefer. “All the other teams don’t like Brock because we’re so successful, and I give all the credit to our coaches. We all knew each of our individual performances depended on the win and we supported each other throughout the entire competition,”
The women’s team won both the provincial as well as the national wrestling titles. Now in her second year at Brock, Schaefer hopes to repeat the success from last year in both academics and athletics.
Ultimately, Schaefer’s final goal is to one day make the Canadian Olympic wrestling team.
“Whether that happens or not, the experiences I’m getting now can’t be beat. I’m having such an amazing time with my wrestling and education. Yes, I want to be on the Olympic team but if that doesn’t happen I’ve still enjoyed the entire experience and I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Schaefer.
Assistant Internal News Editor