Sexual assault survivors need resources now

Waiting on a comprehensive policy, survivors need a road map to navigate the current system

Sexual assault survivors need resources now

For the past several months, countless instances of sexual assault on North American university campuses have been dominating the media. With these stories comes criticism for the absence of effective policies for dealing with incidents of assault and the silence that surrounds sexual violence in our society.

In last week’s issue of The Varsity, reporter Victoria Wicks conducted a sweeping investigation of sexual assault on campus, with testimonies from survivors expressing the inadequacy of available resources. In recent months, student-run grassroots initiatives such as U of T Students Against Sexual Violence and U of T Thrive have sprung up on campus in response to growing dissatisfaction with the administration’s treatment of the issue.

In many of the narratives that have arisen as a result of this discourse, certain details recur — particularly, many survivors have expressed a sense of disorientation following their assault. They did not know where to go or who to talk to; they feared their stories would not be believed; they were told, repeatedly, to go to the police.

In November, the university announced the creation of the Advisory Committee to the President and Provost on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence. This committee includes student representatives and is a step in the right direction — but organizing a committee, producing a document, reviewing the report, seeking further consultation, and translating it into actual policy is a lengthy process. Generating an adequate and effective policy on sexual violence on campus certainly requires ample consultation and consideration and, in order to ensure that it is done right, cannot be done rashly. With this in mind, in the short term, survivors need a more immediate solution.

At this point in the process, the establishment of the advisory committee does little more for survivors than provide a sense that recourse may eventually be available — a mere consolation during a time when they require concrete resources and support. For the university, the committee provides a convenient answer to the growing pressure to do something about this issue, in addition to acting as a publicized nod to the existence of the problem. However, for survivors attempting to find support on campus right now, the system in place remains highly decentralized, leading to redirection and, consequently, demoralization.

The reality is that sexual violence is an urgent problem on this campus and on many others across North America. With each month that passes while the university develops a response, more students are getting lost in the maze of the system. The effects of this disorientation are profound and distressing, often leading to isolation, academic struggle, and for some, depression or suicidal thoughts.

There are several small steps that the university could take as short-term solutions to this issue. In Wicks’ feature, Althea Blackburn-Evans, director of news and media relations at U of T, says that a document identifying support and services available to survivors on campus is currently being worked on.

Something as simple as a chart outlining precisely what resources are available to survivors at U of T could be produced quickly — it could include the names of offices and relevant individuals, along with descriptions of the sort of support and the degrees of confidentiality that can be expected from each of these resources. It could also include information on general options available to survivors of sexual assault, including going to the hospital if necessary, reporting the crime to the police, talking to friends and family, and city resources.

This information is mostly publicly available, but is not compiled centrally or cohesively. Frankly, it should not take months of work to put this sort of resource together. It should be prepared immediately and advertised widely as a means of both providing support to survivors of sexual assault and giving informed guidance to administrators and staff.

Another short-term solution that could be implemented is to introduce mandatory consent workshops for incoming students during frosh week. The Sexual Education Centre already offers optional presentations on consent to frosh, but not all colleges and faculties take advantage of this opportunity. This resource, which is already available, would be an ideal way to introduce principles of sexual health, safety, and prevention of sexual violence to students as soon as they arrive at the university.

At present, there are some, albeit inadequate, services available to survivors of sexual assault in the U of T community — but the task of finding the right resource to fit an individual experience is far too arduous. The unfortunate reality is that many students know someone who has been affected by sexual violence in their time as an undergraduate student at this institution.

Given the immediacy and pervasiveness of this issue, the university has a pressing responsibility to provide a coherent catalogue of options available to students who experience sexual violence. Right now, there are survivors of sexual violence on campus falling through the cracks. These students should be the university’s priority — yet, in a practical sense, the committee at present does little to help them and does far more to make the university appear as though they are providing a solution. Whatever response system the committee creates must put survivors first, rather than the reputation of the university. During this interim period of policy development, the university must take simple but immediate action toward prioritizing the students currently trying to navigate the ineffectual support that currently exists.

Alternative thoughts

Delving into the world of alternative spirituality in Toronto

Alternative thoughts

“The mind is like a parachute: it doesn’t work if it’s not open.” Frank Zappa probably didn’t have alternative spirituality in mind when he said these words, but they pertain to the subject nonetheless.

We exist in a time and place where the boundaries of the realm of spirituality have been expanded, making space for a wide array of approaches and practices. Spirituality in general is a highly personal, sometimes controversial subject — alternative spiritual practices are no different.

Alternative spiritualities-Rusaba Alam-DSC_0196EDResponses to these practices are wide-ranging. Naturally diverse perspectives on the subject are the product of multiple influences, perceptions, and sources of information. The realm of alterative spirituality and its practices can prompt intrigue, skepticism, or something in between — but the most important part of approaching the subject is having an open mind, and perhaps a functioning parachute.


Notoriously challenging to define, alternative spirituality is often referred to as “post-traditional spirituality” or “New Age spirituality.” This indicates its push toward deeper and more referential understanding. Where these monikers do not suffice, alternative spirituality is generally understood as spiritual practices concerned with self-development, healing, and personal transformation. The idea as a whole is quite difficult to define. 

In addition to the concepts, the diversity represented within the wide spectrum of alternatively spiritual practice, can present a challenge for individuals looking to become engaged or those who are simply curious. In many ways, the intention is to avoid classification and narrow definitions that cannot aptly express the diversity of alternative spirituality. This fluidity of definition, in some senses, pays a sort of homage to one of its main principles: “transformation” or “becoming”. For those who practice, transformation is then elevated into the company of other notions, which similarly evade definition and can include love, truth, beauty, art, and god.


With so little in the way of a comprehensive definition, the exploration of alternative spiritual practices can seem daunting and unfocused. The cultural diversity enjoyed in Toronto — Canada’s largest and most diverse city — lends itself to an impressive range of practitioners and practices.

Strolling down a Toronto street, the signs in windows invite passersby to engage in a multiplicity of choices. There are the more well-known culprits, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and yoga. Accompanying these familiar faces are relatively unknown characters; strange words and phrases like “Reiki” and “mindfulness meditation”. Although represented well enough in the Toronto community, these practices are relatively unfamiliar and esoteric.

Whether you’re navigating these storefronts of Toronto streets or simply looking to familiarize yourself with some of the basics of these practices, an understanding of the lengthy history and origins of alternative spirituality is helpful.


Alternative spiritualities-Rusaba Alam-DSC_0201EDReiki is a Japanese healing technique which operates on the assumption that “life force energy” channels through us and constitutes our being. The word Reiki is comprised of two Japanese words, Rei and Ki, which translate as “spiritual energy” or “universal life energy.” It is a technique for relaxation and stress reduction, which also promotes healing. 

Nearly a century old, Reiki is rooted in the Eastern metaphysics of energy and vibration. Expanding beyond its Eastern roots, Reiki has been growing in popularity and commonality, particularly in diverse cities like Toronto.

Frans Stiene, a senior Reiki teacher at the International House of Reiki, stresses that the practice is heavily rooted in mindfulness. “The system of Reiki is all about mindfulness as all the practices are meditations,” he says. Stiene elaborates, “When we become more mindful we get less distracted by the past, present, and future which in turn will help us to stay more focused.” He adds that by creating focused awareness individuals can reduce stress.

The practice itself, at the most elementary level, can be described as the “laying on” of hands, with the intention of realigning and restoring spiritual and energetic balance.

“It’s a very difficult thing to describe,” says Alice,* a Reiki Level Two student who has experienced various forms of energy work. “It’s a very calming experience,” she says, adding, “to me — the best way I can describe it — it’s this feeling of a soothing, gentle energy.” She is careful to add, however, that it is a very individual experience and others may have a different impression.

For Alice, becoming exposed to energy work was something of an accident. “I kind of fell into it. My earliest exposure to Reiki was actually in conjunction with more traditional medicine. I was seeing a massage therapist for a back injury, and they happened to be a Reiki master and offered it as an additional therapy.”

Like many practices of alternative spirituality, Reiki often receives a mixed response. There are those who are critical about the validity of the practice. When asked about her thoughts on the negative responses to the practice, Stiene says, “You cannot force anybody to believe in anything.”  Stiene also advises anyone curious about the practice, including skeptics, to give exploration a chance, adding, “the only way to know if it is nonsense or not, is to start to practice the system of Reiki yourself, so that you can gain a direct experience of it.” 


Crystals, healing stones, and semi-precious gemstones are often used as an adjunct to energy-healing Reiki sessions, or even on their own. Historical records of crystal healing dates as far back as the ancient Sumerians and are established for their personal utility in various belief systems. The ancient Greeks, for instance, carved goblets out of amethyst stone with the intention of preventing drunkenness.

Alternative spiritualities-Rusaba Alam-DSC_0204EDIn the realm of modern alternative spirituality, the practice of crystal healing employs the notion that crystals with high-energy frequencies have metaphysical healing abilities. The idea of crystal healing is closely tied to the energetic theory of chakras, a Sanskrit word that translates as “circle” or “wheel of life.”

The theory of chakras is dynamic and detailed. The Sparknotes version would likely state that there are seven main loci of energetic power in the human body which, when a person is healthy, are in alignment, balance, and are free of blockage. For believers of crystal healing, it is understood that the rates of energy vibrations in a crystal, when matched with the appropriate chakras, will assist in healing and a return to a normal, harmonized state.

Walking into one of two Gifts From the Earth locations in Toronto, a shop that specializes in crystals from a geological and spiritual perspective is daunting. The Danforth location is filled with an almost astounding array of crystals, ranging from small, pocket sized objects to three foot tall specimens of raw amethyst — the latter of which can’t help but impress.

With this enormous selection, choosing one seems like an impossible task. According to expert recommendations, however, the answer is simple — pick the one that draws you in. This advice is offered on the basis that an energetic attraction will guide you to the crystal that you most need. Historically, crystal healing has had links to Western medicine as well; the idea of colour as a healing quality in crystals was reinforced by colour therapy equipment present in Western hospital rooms until the middle of the twentieth century.

Crystals are sold in a variety of stores around the city. One such establishment is Wonderworks, located on Baldwin Street. Natalie Krolikowski, one of the stores employees, describes the business as a “natural healing store.” Wonderworks offers a wide selection of crystals, floral essences, and more adventurous items including magic candles. “We section off our crystals according to your needs, for example, mental focus,” Krolikowski says when asked specifically about navigating the store’s crystal selection.

Wonderworks is an intriguing shop. To the untrained eye, the stock of the store appears as organized chaos. The merchandise is neatly organized, but it’s unfamiliarity to some may make it feel a little overwhelming.

Alternative spiritualities-Rusaba Alam-DSC_0188EDRochelle Holt, owner of Wonderworks, offers some advice to beginners exploring the practice of crystal energy that extends to alternative spirituality in general. “Try not to be too overwhelmed and listen to your intuition,” says Holt.

Though practices like Reiki and crystal healing may seem unapproachable to some, Wonderworks merchandise also includes products that may have a more general appeal. The store carries a selection of candles, as well as a wide range of aromatherapy merchandise, including incense, essential oils, and bath salts. These products have a distinct tie to alternative health and spiritual practices, but may also be enjoyable to anyone looking for some relaxation.


Meditation is practiced by many cultures and within various spiritual and religious beliefs around the world ­— evidenced by 3,000 year-old Indian scriptures. Understood as simply being, meditation is about letting oneself fully resonate with life, in a way that qualifies neither suffering nor joy.

Tibetan Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says, “Meditation is based on three fundamental factors: first, not centralizing inward; second, not having any longing to become higher; and third, becoming completely identified with here and now.” In other words, meditation introduces you to true selfhood, despite the impostures and impositions of the world. It puts you in tune with your mind and body, it works to subdue the ego, and it allows you to face everything without judgement.

The effects of meditation are mental, emotional, physiological, and spiritual. Its practice effectively reduces mental and physical stress, improving emotional intelligence. Meditation brings tranquility and healing, and even improves neuroplasticity. 

Zach Summerhayes, a student at the U of T, says that his ongoing experience with mindfulness, aids him in being fully present and acquiescing in feelings, thoughts, sensations, and the moments of life.

“It has opened up the possibility of experience in everything, provided me with the tools to know myself better, helped regulate my emotions and discouraged the projection of my automatic beliefs, so that I can engage with experiences more in the moment,” says Summerhayes.

Summerhayes has found that meditation has aided in “cultivating an attitude towards myself and others that is non-judgmental, inquisitive, and generally, really interested.” He clarifies that his transformative journey has not been insouciant, “It’s hard self-work, it’s uncomfortable a lot of the time, and involves letting yourself be seen by both you and others.” 


Alternative spiritualities-Rusaba Alam-DSC_0190EDWhether you are already committed to a practice or have yet to find a suitable option, it is important to try various practices out in the hopes of getting the most enriched, enlightening, and safe experience. Finding the right modality is often a matter of deep feeling and intuition. If something is stirred within you, chances are, you are on the right path.

Cataloguing these sensations is in keeping with the notion that the value of alternative spirituality is a matter of cumulative experience, rather than stated ideology or doctrine, and primarily depends on the persons involved. There is a growing trend in alternative spirituality, but despite an increased presence in mainstream society, navigating the legitimacy of resources remains something of a challenge.

That being said, accurately informed guides do exist. Toronto is full of authentic retailers providing a plethora of materials from sage smudge sticks and crystals to therapeutic essential oils, incense, and reading materials. A few of these retailers include Wonderworks, The Rock Store, Gifts from the Earth, and House of Energy —  all of which offer many opportunities to expand and explore conceptions of spirituality, for the curious mind or complete skeptic.

Alternative spirituality remains a fascinating avenue of enquiry clawing back to the lively discourses of philosophy and metaphysics on the subject of spirit. So who could then reasonably expect a clear answer on the benefits of alternative spiritualism? Perhaps the only answer available is first-hand experience.

*Name changed at person’s request.

Letters to the Editor: Issue 20 — March 9, 2015

Two PhD students weigh in on the strike

Letters to the Editor: Issue 20 — March 9, 2015

Dear undergraduates of the University of Toronto,

I understand your frustration with the strike and I’m not asking for your support (although very welcome) but just the opportunity to explain my position, which is shared with many grad students. Like yourselves, we are frustrated with the high cost of your tuition, especially since it is unclear where all your money goes since those who do more than 60 per cent of the teaching at U of T account for only 3.5 per cent of the budget.

Graduate school might seem like a great deal, because we don’t pay tuition and get $15,000 in funding. However, many grads including myself are paying tuition ($8000-$20,000 a year) and nearly 60 per cent of that is earned through work as TAs, research assistants (RAs), and course instructors (CIs). Yes, we are paid $42/hour for this, but this is part of the $15,000, so wage increases mean nothing when the funding remains unchanged.

You’ve heard that graduate students are living well below the poverty line and maybe thought: ‘why not just get a part time job?’ Most students do take on extra TA, RA, and CI work to pay the bills. However, that’s not an option in every department and those who do undertake extra work often take longer to complete their degrees. We love our experiences teaching undergrads, but we are also students. We take graduate courses but at the end of the day when we are finished coursework and teaching, we conduct research from which the university benefits in prestige and grant money. Since this work continues all year round, it is not just a full-time job it’s a lifestyle; we work all day, making it impossible to take on a job outside of this lifestyle. If you add up all the hours we devote to our graduate work and divide it by the $15,000, it works out to just a few dollars an hour.

I understand that you may not be sympathetic with our position, but I hope you can see that we are not striking to hurt you; we are fighting so that we can provide you with better education – right now most of our hours are devoted to marking but you deserve more of our time with smaller tutorials, office hours, and individual feedback. We would love to provide that to our students, but the university doesn’t see it as enough of a priority to pay for it. Finally, some of you may one day apply to graduate school and what I hope most of all is that what we achieve today will benefit you in the future.

Thank you and hope to see you in class again soon!

— Nicole Daniel, PhD student, Course Instructor and Teaching Assistant at the University of Toronto

I’m a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. I am the President of the computer science graduate student body. I am a former course instructor, run TA training for our department, and take extra TAships because I love teaching undergraduates, so much so it’s what I want to do after I graduate. I am also on strike. Please, let me explain why.

When I converse with graduate students from other departments, I have to apologize for our relative embarrassment of riches. Our minimum PhD stipend is $19, 300 (plus tuition), far higher than many of our peers’ $15, 000; there are more TA and instructor positions than we can fill, yet we are only required to perform 108 hours, again less than in many other departments. Our teaching conditions are excellent, thanks to a series of proactive and responsive undergraduate chairs. Many of us create successful start-ups, such as Granata Decision Systems, DNNResearch, and Sciencescape. We have many opportunities for industry internships, and after graduation, our employment prospects are excellent, both in industry, where companies like Google and Facebook snap us up, and in academia, as computer science becomes increasingly prominent. Ultimately, many of the core issues in this round of bargaining aren’t of immediate concern to graduate students in our department.

So why would I, and many of my computer science peers, even consider going on strike? I could say solidarity, but that’s a cheap answer. If that was all, the level of support from both the undergraduate and graduate TAs in our department would be much lower. The unfortunate truth is that we are a frustrated and dispirited bunch; despite the successes, the situation in the department is far from rosy. Our research professor complement is 25 per cent smaller than it was 10 years ago. A long-term hiring freeze in our department has recently been lifted, but we’ve continued to face challenges in hiring new professors, as well as losing professors to places like Google, Princeton, and MIT. Our professors are beleaguered and strained, trying to teach more students, handle more administration, start more initiatives, and still produce world-class research with ever-decreasing levels of support.

We have also faced continued difficulty in attracting the best graduate student recruits. As new computer science departments pop up around the world, and existing departments not only expand but diversify and reinvent themselves, we have found ourselves hamstrung by provincial limits on international student enrolment as well as devastating cuts to NSERC Discovery Grants. Consequently, while our student stipends are relatively generous at U of T, they have fallen far behind many of our American competitors. In an extraordinarily expensive city, were not financially competitive.

For many of our graduate students, the reality on the ground is quite bleak. Our stipends are guaranteed for only 5 years, when our median time for an MSc and a PhD is 7 years. This means many of our graduate students are not only unfunded for 2 years, but are also responsible for several years’ worth of tuition: $8, 426/year for domestic students and a whopping $20, 579/year for international students. This is an extraordinary burden; I have compatriots who have been dead broke, surviving on PB&J and instant ramen, while simultaneously engaging in top-tier research. Still others work upwards of 6 TAships at a time — 390 hours a term — to make ends meet, further extending their PhDs and driving up their tuition obligations. These are young adults trying to start their careers, many of whom are also starting their families and new lives in Toronto, and to see their struggles can be gut-wrenching.

Unfortunately caught in the middle of this labour dispute, our undergraduate students are also in an unfair situation. They pay tuition of over $10, 000, almost double what other Faculty of Arts and Science students pay, if they manage to hurdle enrolment caps that are driving the minimum admission grade ever upwards. Those extra fees are not redirected back to the department, but are instead distributed throughout the Faculty. So in return, undergraduates work on beat-up lab computers that are, on average, 5 years old. They are squeezed out of required 2nd-year courses because we don’t have room for them. They are squeezed into 4th-year courses with hundreds of students because we can’t find instructors to run more sections. They miss out on courses we cannot offer, because we have no professors to teach them. With the department struggling to find the capacity to meet their demand, their class sizes are ballooning and, ironically, their TA support has been slashed to less than 80 per cent of what their predecessors received 5 years ago.

This is the state of affairs at one of U of T’s globally acclaimed departments. Amazing achievements continue — the launch of a new start-up incubator, creation of massively open online courses, new industry partnerships, graduates who go on to prestigious positions in industry and academia, dynamic interdisciplinary research — but they occur almost in spite of the myriad constraints placed upon the department.

This is not to place all blame for the department’s ills on others, but shrinking or stagnant levels of support from the university, the provincial government, and the federal government, along with increased demand for and competitiveness in computer science, have combined to put the Department of Computer Science in a distressed state, and its world-class status at risk. More broadly, while I cannot speak with authority on the situation in other departments, I am pessimistic given all the advantages my department should have.

So why go on strike? I am aware that CUPE 3902’s mandate does not encompass all these issues. I harbour no illusions that we can solve these problems through collective labour action. I know that my department will still have struggles long after I have departed. For me, this strike, just as it isn’t really about improving my personal circumstances, isn’t really about saving my department either. But it is a first step. This strike is speaking out about important issues. It’s about using what little leverage I have to rectify what few injustices I can. It’s about showing everybody what it means to make a stand of solidarity and of principle. Despite the callous and casual disregard the university administration shows us – in a “let them eat cake” moment, the university rejected our demands for better conditions because we are both full-time students and part-time employees – I still believe that it can do better, that it can be better, even if I have to force the issue. In my hopes, this strike is not an end, but a beginning.

All I can ask of the undergraduate students is to have patience, to take a little bit of time to understand our situation, and to give a little effort in becoming engaged. This cannot be the only time you will encounter crisis and injustice in your lives, and the act of responding itself is more important than whose side you take. You are not powerless, you are not tokens or chips, and you are not victims. This is your future, one way or another; don’t just let it happen to you without you.

—Brian Law, PhD student, President of the Computer Science Student’s Graduate Body

Professional sports top figures visit U of T

The UTSB Sports Industry Conference took place Friday afternoon at Rotman School of Management

Professional sports top figures visit U of T

The University of Toronto Sports and Business Association’s (UTSB) annual Sports Industry Conference took place on March 6, 2015 at the Rotman School of Management. The day was packed with speakers and panels of leaders of all sorts in the sports industry.

“This [can be] your first step into the industry. Whether it’s networking, gaining very awesome insights, getting some sort of tips. Just networking with the people on your table might be another way to go,” said Ted Machizawa, current president of UTSB.

David Kincaid, who serves as the Managing Partner & Founder for Level 5 Strategy Group moderated the opening panel, “Why Invest in Sports”. The panelists consisted of Justine Fedak, Head of Brand, Advertising & Sponsorship, BMO; Scott Moore, President, Sportsnet & NHL Properties at Rogers; and Ken Otto, President, Family, Dining & CDO, Cara Operations. The first panel of the event dealt with the factors that drive large corporations to take note of sports of all sorts and how sponsorships are leveraged.

The second panel, “Same Script, Different Story” was moderated by copywriter and contributor for TSN Bar Down, Daniel Bruno. This panel dealt with the dramatically changing technology and mediums that networks use to engage with their audiences within sports broadcasting and reporting industry.

Panelists included, Evanka Osmak, sports anchor, Sportsnet; James Mirtle, NHL writer, The Globe and Mail; Steve McAllister, managing editor, Yahoo Sports Magazine; and Scott Morrison, journalist, Sportsnet.

Arguably, the most anticipated panel of the conference, the third was “Big Data & How We View Sports”. The growth of sports analytics has recently been on a tear. Analytics has grown at different rates in the various sports. Alex Burwasser, who is the Sports Analyst at Bloomberg Sports, moderated the panel.

The panel consisted of Jason Rosenfeld, Director of Basketball Analytics, NBA; Kevin Abrams, Assistant General Manager, New York Giants; Neil Smith, sports analyst, Sportsnet, and Former General Manager, NHL.

Smith pointed out that in the near future of hockey analytics “we will be able to break down things in ways we have never seen before.”

The entire panel referred to Michael Lewis’ book, Moneyball, as to where sports analytics really started to take on a wave. Within the next decade, as analytics advance a huge number of job openings will be available in all NBA teams and also the NBA front office, said Rosenfeld, who holds the first ever basketball analytics position at the NBA head office.

A big challenge the sports industry faces is filtering out the noise versus useful information that teams can use when it comes to data. Psychology is another aspect of analytics that is overlooked when everyone is focused on crunching numbers. Teams are looking for ways to test athletes to decide if a player is ready to play at the pro-level.

Susan Krashinsky moderated the final panel, “Disruptive Marketing in Sports”. Krashinsky is an Advertising & Marketing Reporter for The Globe And Mail. Panelists included Keith Degrace, Vice-President of Marketing, Red Bull Canada; Susan O’Brien, Vice-President of Strategic Marketing, Canadian Tire; Kevin Foley, founding parter, Project 10; and John McCauley, senior director of Marketing, MLSE.

The final two speakers were Rob Elwood and John Bitove. Elwood is the host of the number one sports podcast on iTunes, “Who Are You: The Life Lessons of Sports.” Bitove served as the final keynote, and he is best known as founder of both the Toronto Raptors and the Air Canada Centre.

Bitove discussed the growth of the game and culture of basketball in Canada when the Raptors arrived in 1995, as well as the expected growth in upcoming years.

“Team Canada will soon have its full roster of 12 players playing in the NBA,” said Bitove, who founded the Raptors when he was just 33.

“When the Canadian and American dollar are equal, then Montreal and Vancouver will have teams,” said Bitove when asked about future Canadian NBA teams.

Avish Sood, Co-Founder of UTSB, said that the conference has grown exponentially over the years. Sood is currently working with the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games in a sponsorship position.

“I [still] help out with organizing in terms of the strategy and in terms of getting the speakers,” says Sood.

“Through this conference, I learned to be a professional. I learned how to send emails properly, [and] deal with executives, VP’s, presidents,” says Sood.

Sood explains that there are many opportunities for students to get involved in UTSB, especially first and second year students.

CAN coaches vs. USA coaches

Why comparing CIS and NCAA coaches is like a comparison between apples and oranges

CAN coaches vs. USA coaches

There is a variety of factors that influence a team’s or individual athlete’s success; commitment, diligence, and a simple passion for the sport name a few.

However, specific personality traits and motivation can only take you and your team so far; without someone organizing practices, spearheading games, and creating the right plays, you’re not going to go far or win many medals. This is where coaches come in.

Coaches in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and other Canadian university sport leagues are critical to a team’s success and, in order to reach such high levels of success, tackle an array of responsibilities outside of just creating plays and fine-tuning play.

University coaches need access to enough monetary, technical as well as personal support by fans and spectators, in order to facilitate the ideal environment, leading athletes and teams to the highest level of success.

However, all of these factors, which are bountiful in the National College Athletics Association (NCAA), are scarce in CIS sports.

When it comes down to how to motivate, inspire, and guide athletes every coach has a different style. For U of T’s fastpitch head coach Craig Sarson, the main difference between the style of American and Canadian coaches is mentality.

“In the States, I find people are more open to different concepts, and teaching methods,” explains Sarson.

“In Canada I find that coaches are trying to stay inside some Canadian style, to benefit all of Canada instead of the individual athletes,” he adds.

U of T’s assistant  swimming coach Linda Kiefer concurs, and explains that an athlete in the US is viewed as an employee of the NCAA, as many of these athletes receive full scholarships from their school. Meanwhile in in Canada, education is the top priority.

“Really, if you swim in the states, swimming is basically number one. You are being paid to swim,” explains Kiefer, using intercollegiate swim teams as an example, which can often apply to all NCAA teams.

The monetary support NCAA teams receive as opposed to CIS teams is also another factor which can influence the effectiveness of a coach.

“In the NCAA the coaches and sports programs are able to accomplish a lot due to their resources on the whole,” says Sarson, who is also quick to note that comparing Canadian and American sport funding models is comparing apples to oranges.

“With the different scholarship policies, and attendance figures for NCAA sports, the finances are not in the same ballpark, so it’s not fair to compare the two,” he concludes.

“Money makes a big difference,” highlights Kiefer, when referring to how great of an impact resources make in the success of a CIS team.

“The biggest difference is in travel to meets; being able to hire specialists like strength trainers, nutritionists, biomechanists, therapists etc. The more money you have the more resources you can pull in,” she adds.

Kiefer also makes the point that the budget for the team, not necessarily the salary of an individual coach, can have a tremendous impact on the amount of medals and trophies won.

“We [Canadian coaches] are not doing this job for the money… we do it because we love the sport,” she explains.

“But if you have more money in the teams budget, you can afford to do more things with the team; you can travel more places, race different people, buy different products for athletes to use in training etc. … it just makes things a lot easier.” 

Jill Stratton’s Varsity Blues career comes to a close

Stratton enjoyed a successful final season on the Blues’ women’s basketball team

Jill Stratton’s Varsity Blues career comes to a close

Last week, Varsity Blues basketball star Jill Stratton was named to her third Ontario University Athletics (OUA) first team all-star selection.

“Its an honour to be selected as an OUA first team all-star. This year was a bit different than the previous years, as the all–star teams were selected from the entire OUA as opposed to being separated into the East and West,” says Stratton.

The OUA hosts 18 teams for women’s basketball. Having been recognized as one of the top players in the entire OUA league is an outstanding accomplishment for Stratton, making her the only player in U of T’s history to be selected for the all–star game three times.

Earlier this season while facing the York University Lions, Stratton passed Alaine Hutton as the top leading scorer in U of T women’s basketball history, finishing her career with 1,245 points through 96 regular season games. Making this feat even more impressive is her ability to break this record while missing a significant part of her third season due to an injury.

Unexpectedly, the  guard’s biggest strength is not putting points on the board. Despite being a guard, Stratton rebounds at a high level as well.

Stratton began playing in Etobicoke, Ontario. She attests the basketball program at her high school, Etobicoke C.I. to have prepared her for a stellar basketball career at U of T.

During the time that she played for ECI, the talent level in the GTA was tremendously high. Despite the competition, Stratton was named MVP for three consecutive years. She was also named MVP on the cross-country and track and field teams.

“Being a long distance runner would prove to be useful in basketball, as I found myself playing a high number of minutes per game.  It also taught me how to push myself until exhaustion,” says Stratton.

As a terrific all-around player, Stratton’s mentality on the court focuses on moving the ball around and making plays that are best for the team.

After her rookie season, the team lost many key players. At this point, it became important for Stratton to take up a leadership role on the team.

Despite being such a prolific and proven scorer, Stratton also leads the team this season with 54 steals and 59 assists. Meanwhile, her career high in points is 30. In the OUA Stratton finished in third, seventh, and tenth place in rebounding, scoring, and assists, respectively.

“Scoring was never really my biggest strength or my number one priority so it came as a surprise to me that I was even close to becoming U of T’s all time scoring leader,” says Stratton.

“When I get on the court, I just try to make the play that is best for my team, whether it be passing or looking to score,” she says.

Stratton’s final game in a Varsity Blues jersey took place when the Blues travelled to Windsor to take on the Lancers in OUA quarter-final action. The Blues fell short in a 64–49 loss. Stratton’s final stat line included 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

As Stratton’s undergraduate career at U of T comes to an end, her basketball career will not.

“Next year I am hoping to go play pro overseas. I’m not ready to give up basketball just yet so I’m hoping that works out,” says Stratton as she graduates with a kinesiology degree.

“I don’t really have a backup plan, so as of now that’s my goal,” says Stratton.

Explaining injuries: tendonitis

The third installment of a three-part series

Explaining injuries: tendonitis

Tendonitis, caused by a tendon’s inflammation, is common in an athlete’s ankle, elbow, and wrist.

Instead of a sudden movement which caused the last two injuries that we looked at, torn ACLs and sprained ankles, tendonitis is actually a repetitive strain injury (RSI). If you are putting the same area of your body under strain in a non-ergonomic way, RSI’s are very likely to occur.

The injury is common in middle-aged adults, though the risk does increase greatly for athletes who repetitively train and use the same muscles.

The diagnosis of tendonitis is very often chronic if untreated initially, meaning that once tendonitis develops, it is rare that it will ever go away, and pain resulting from it could strike at any time.

Due to the fact that this is a repetitive injury, there are some prevention methods with which you can engage. Taking care to rest and recuperate important, and antihistamines can be used to reduce swelling in the area.

If the problem becomes increasingly worse, corticosteroid injections work quickly to reduce pain and inflammation. Physical therapy can also help to reduce the pain and improve overall strength of the area.

Linda Hudson, an active athlete at U of T, was diagnosed with chronic tendonitis.

“I basically applied ice, rested my arm and took a course of anti-inflammatory drugs. The worst part of the treatment is not being allowed to do anything because it further aggravates the tendinitis. I never know when it will strike and keep me from playing tennis or rowing, which I love to do,” says Hudson.

In extreme cases, tendon repair surgery may be performed, in which case a doctor sews torn pieces of tendons back together, or the tendon is replaced with a tendon graft.

This surgery is not always a desirable option due to the fact that the post surgery tendon will not function as efficiently as the original, but will reduce pain in the area. Healing can take up to 12 weeks while kept in a cast.

One way to avoid this kind of injury is to make sure to stretch properly, strengthen the muscles surrounding the at-risk area, and make sure to minimize any repetitive strain to your body.

Roster shake-up proves fruitful for Blues Fencers

Team claims both performance and sportsmanship awards

The season is coming to a close for the Varsity Blues fencing team, and the team has a lot to be proud of.

Hard work and quick team building have contributed to major success for the team. These traits, complimented by new team members, create a positive outlook for everyone on the team.

Fencing is very much a competitive sport, challenging the agility, fitness, and tactics of competitors. The sport is one-on-one with a choice of three possible weapons: foil, epee, or sabre.


Kawmadie Karunanayake/THE VARSITY

The mantle at U of T will be a be bit more crowded this year thanks to sabre champion William Kinney bringing back the Schwende-Tully trophy for the second consecutive year, and the George Tully trophy, proving his skill, style, and sportsmanship.

Shun Kong delivered some stand out performances this season including a gold medal at Canada’s Cup in the foil division, which did not go unnoticed by head coach Thomas Nguyen.

“I’m very happy to see his hard work translate into more and more victories,” says Nguyen.

Team veteran Donna Vakalis was named Ontario University Athletics fencing all-star.

“The experience of our senior fencers showed in the results, and where several of our newer fencers delivered personal best performances,” said Nguyen.

Paul Godin, a team veteran, couldn’t agree more that the right people have really come together this past season to create a strong team.

“I would say that overall we had a good season, largely due to strong newcomers who replaced the graduating team members from last year. Obviously, we still need some improvement if we hope to win the banner, but if we train hard I can see that becoming a reality next year,” says Godin.

With confidence brimming, skills developing, and the experienced coaching staff mentoring the team, we should see talented rookies like Linnea Sage bring even more hardware back to Blues headquarters.

“What we didn’t realize is how quickly our rookie athletes would grow into central competitive roles,” says team manager Fidelia Ho.