RENAISSANCE ATHLETES

In Sports /

By Erin Valois

Don’t panic at the sight of Tessa Dimitrakopolous with a hockey stick. The soccer star hasn’t left her winning team. Instead, she is paving the way for future Ryerson athletes who dominate at not just one sport but two.

After a successful soccer season that saw Dimitrakopolous and teammate Andrea Raso picking up Ontario University Athletics (OUA) awards, the student-athletes moved their talents to the Stingers, Ryerson’s undefeated women’s hockey team.

Joining the Stingers after the soccer season has added to their reputation as elite athletes, but two-sport success is not entirely unheard of at Ryerson.

Soccer player Jassie Hayer joined the basketball team over the winter break and according to Dimitrakopolous, more Ryerson athletes may be getting involved next year.

“I know a lot of people who play soccer want to go for the volleyball team or the basketball team, but they don’t because they think it’s too much to handle,” said Dimitrakopolous. “Hopefully they see that if Andrea and I can do two sports, they can too and it will motivate them.”

Aside their existing skills in hockey, the soccer talents of Dimitrakopolous and Raso are great assets to the Stingers.

They are still training with the soccer team in the off-season, which gives them the endurance to play hard every game. The duo also play on the same line, translating their winning chemistry to hockey.

“Both girls are extremely talented players and contributed to the strength of the team,” said Stingers coach Harvey Poulin. “They are both versatile and because of soccer they are in great physical shape.”

Poulin says the Stingers may lose their two-sport players when they become a varsity team in 2010. “The seasons may clash. I could see it being difficult to co-ordinate schedules,” he said. “But if there are athletes out there that are willing to play, that would definitely be great.”

Although the girls are focusing a lot of time on hockey, their soccer coach Peyvand Mossavat is happy to see them excel at another sport — as long as they remember that soccer and school are their first priorities.

“I think it’s great as long as they manage their academics because it’s hard to be a student-athlete with even one sport,” said Mossavat. “I’m not worried about them playing another sport as long as they understand that their commitment is here with us.”

Mossavat is open to working with other coaches when he is looking for potential additions to his team. He thinks it’s important to inform his colleagues when he comes across a talented multi-sport athlete.

“It’s not official but we’re actually recruiting a kid right now who is an incredible volleyball player and an amazing basketball player,” he said. “I’ve contacted both coaches to let them know that maybe this girl could play for them as well.”

Jean Kennedy, Ryerson’s Athletic Director, does not think that enlisting two-sport athletes should be a priority when recruiting. She said the coach of one sport is not going to spend their time trying to find a star player for another sport.

It’s too time-consuming and could result in missing key prospects.

“The coach goes out to look for a player in their own sport. It will never be a joint thing,” said Kennedy. “Our fencing coach recruits for fencing. They don’t think, ‘Oh maybe they’ll play badminton too.’”

Even if the athletic department isn’t actively searching for two-sport competitors, these athletes just keep showing up. Nik Trutiak is a new member of the fencing team and was also on the rowing team this year.

The fourth-year aerospace engineering student has advice for current players who are thinking of participating in another sport. “It’s really difficult to be involved with two sports because not only are you co-ordinating with school, but you’re playing another sport,” he said.

“You really have to love both sports or else you won’t be able to do it.”

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