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By Erin Valois

Leah Franco wants to be a Ryerson Ram. The Grade 12 student at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Oakville wants to study kinesiology and join the women’s volleyball team. Rams coach Bob Cholette has expressed interest in recruiting her.

There’s just one problem: Ryerson doesn’t offer kinesiology.

“It’s just really hard because I want to go to Ryerson,” she says. “You end up picking a different school that you aren’t as excited about just because they have the program.”

Every year, Ryerson loses out on potential key recruits for varsity sports programs because the academic courses that typically draw athletes are not offered.

At York, the bulk of student-athletes are enrolled in kinesiology — 10 of the 15 players on the men’s volleyball team are sports science students. McMaster University and Brock University also boast varsity sports programs that rely heavily on a kineseology curriculum.

But at Ryerson, players such as Franco are forced to chose between studying what they want or becoming a Ram. And the dilemma won’t be resolved any time soon.

Dr. Christopher Evans, Ryerson’s interim associate dean of undergraduate science programs and student affairs, says the university lacks the necessary faculty and facilities to house sport science programs.

“Kinesiology programs are multi-disciplined and have certain kinds of faculty expertise not consistent with our current faculty,” he says. “It’s always possible in the future, but we would need more developed athletic facilities, faculty hires in certain areas and space devoted to research labs and facilities.”

Although the science department doesn’t think there is a need for these programs, women’s soccer coach Peyvand Mossavat thinks that recruiting at Ryerson could use the extra lift.

“I think it would be phenomenal if we had some sort of kinesiology or sports-related program,” he says. “Every year, we have about four or five girls who are potentially big-time athletes but they are all interested in the kinesiology program.”

He finds that this is a common situation — meeting prospective athletes who want to come to Ryerson, but lose interest once they find out the university doesn’t offer a kinesiology program.

Mossavat thinks that sports-related academic programs could be a defining factor for building an outstanding varsity program.

“Out of 20 kids that I talk to seriously, five want to get into kinesiology. A quarter of our recruiting class wants to get to that program — that says a lot,” he says. “If we have that program, it will just be another tool to bring in more athletes.”

However, Mossavat is not disappointed with the quality recruits that are brought in by the school’s specialized programs.

He would like to see the added benefits of a sports science program at Ryerson but he also believes that the specialized programs bring in a certain type of athlete.

“I think that if an athlete is interested in a program that is career-oriented they are more focused and know what they want to do, they are more successful on the soccer team,” he says.

Cholette says he was not aware of Franco’s reasons for choosing another school. He adds that he has never lost a student to kinesiology or sport science — and he also attributes this success to Ryerson’s unique curriculum.

“Ryerson has a lot of special programs that have nothing to do with sports,” he says. “Our athletes study complex issues during the day and play sports at night. Other athletes study sports during the day and then go play sports.”

Cholette thinks that sport-related academic programs would be a good addition to the university because new curriculum will create a larger pool of interested athletes.

However, he doesn’t see kinesiology as creating a lot of future career opportunities.

“I’m sure being sport-focused is helpful for their athletes and not as demanding as our programs,” he says. “But our programs guarantee you a career — kinesiology won’t get you anywhere. I wouldn’t put my own kids in kinesiology.”

Acting athletic director Jean Kennedy looks at the bigger picture when it comes to the discussion of sports-related academic programs at Ryerson. She feels that sport science could contribute to other aspects of the university community and cites York as an example.

“They have students that do a co-op and help with athletic therapy. [Kinesiology] would open up opportunities that others have that we don’t have available,” she says.

The University of Western is well known for their sport-related academics and varsity athletics. Western’s acting athletic director Chuck Mathies, a former assistant athletic director at Ryerson, thinks that these university course offerings can be the deciding factor for some athletes to choose a particular school.

“It’s a given that when you offer sports-based programs that you are recruiting people who are already athletes to your institution,” he says. “That means they have the potential of being a varsity athlete if they choose to pursue the sport.”

However, Mathies points to the Carleton men’s basketball team as a successful school without sports science. The Carleton team is number one in the country and none of the players are enrolled in a sports-related academic program.

“Having these types of programs are a part of the formula, but I wouldn’t say it guarantees success,” he says. “There are different equations, you have to look at each university and find out what their differences are from one to the other.”

As for Franco, instead of filling out Ryerson’s volleyball roster, she will be heading to McMaster University or Queen’s University. “I really want to play sports in university,” she says. “I wish I could play at Ryerson.”

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