Being a student-athlete requires dedication and good time management skills to be successful in athletics and in the classroom. Add in playing a second sport at a high level, and that adds unique challenges. Those are the challenges Cairo Berry, Michael Clarke and Romarie Johnson face as dual athletes. The trio represents both the University of King’s College Blue Devils men’s basketball team and the Dalhousie University Tigers football team across campus this 2019-20 season.
Berry, Clarke and Johnson manage to attend their practices, classes, team meetings and games. It pressures them as students and as athletes because they have to attend every session possible. The learning process of balancing the commitments of both sports requires mental and physical toughness.
Time management at its peak
With two practices some days, the consequent stress makes it difficult for the freshmen trio to play football and basketball while also at school.
“Handling school work and playing two sports at the same time is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Johnson, linebacker for the Tigers and a forward for the Blue Devils.
Clarke, who is a receiver for the Tigers and a point guard for the Blue Devils, mentions that he has to maximize his free time. He tries to do most of his school work done before practices or on his days off, which are rare.
Berry, Clarke and Johnson have been practicing with the Blue Devils basketball team six days a week since the beginning of September in preparation for the start of the regular season on Nov. 3. They compete in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA). On top of that, football training with the Tigers started in the last week of August and their season in the Atlantic Football League (AFL) has been going since Sept. 14, with playoffs starting in late October.
Berry, a running back for the Tigers and a defensive guard for the Blue Devils, says the round-the-clock schedule of two sports is challenging.
“You don’t really have much time to actually sit down and study,” says Berry. “You have practices, lifts [weight room workouts], so your body is sore everyday and it’s just non-stop.”
Playing two sports, the physical stress on the three athletes is much greater, which can make them more susceptible to injuries.
Early this fall, Berry suffered a finger fracture and now, he is forced to the sidelines due to a torn meniscus.
“Going through an injury like this and sitting out, hurts,” says Berry. “You think about quitting, but you just have to fight through it.”
The injury is particularly discouraging to Berry, because he will miss both football playoffs with the Tigers and the season opener with the Blue Devils.
Clarke is also not playing right now because of injuries. In mid-October, he was the victim of a hit and run accident near Triple A Convenience and Pizzeria. While he didn’t suffer any serious injuries, his knee is swollen and he’s had to take a break from athletics. That’s been a different kind of stress in itself.
“It’s been hard mentally and physically to try and get around,” says Clarke. “I’m not someone who is off my feet and I’m always on the go and now, this happened and I kind of feel useless.”
Clarke stays positive and aims at the comeback he’ll have after the full recovery from this injury, which should be in two to three weeks.
While on the sidelines, Clarke says he has received a lot of support from his family, coaches and the Blue Devils athletic department.
“I remember I was just laying down in my room and [athletic director] Neil [Hooper] called me and asked me how I was doing,” says Clarke. “That just shows how much King’s athletics support us.”
Coaching dual athletes
Fresh out of high school, these student athletes have a chance to compete in two entirely different environments. This creates an opportunity to build relationships and learn from different coaches.
Chad Wadden, the head coach of the Blue Devils men’s basketball team, believes there’s a benefit to playing both sports because of cross-training.
“I think the opportunity to work out a relationship with Dal Football has helped,” says Wadden. “There are a lot of guys who leave high school and would like to continue to play football at the university setting, as well as they get an opportunity to play ACAA basketball, which allows guys to stay in shape.”
Due conflict of certain practice times, Wadden makes sure that the Berry, Clarke and Johnson get in the gym on their own to practice. But they don’t lose out on the team aspect of the sport.
“We are pretty fortunate with our team because guys do support them and hold a tutorial class where the guys will get together and go over what we went over in practice,” says Wadden. That team chemistry doesn’t leave the football players behind.