Photo: Izabella Balcerzak

Double-shifting: the life of a two-team athlete

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By Bryan Meler

The women’s soccer season may have come to an end this past weekend, but Bethany Clipper is still as busy as any Ryerson athlete.

A striker for the women’s soccer team and a defenceman for the women’s hockey team, Bethany Clipper spent the fall as the only member of two Ryerson U Sports (formerly Canadian Interuniversity Sports) teams. Ryerson’s U Sports teams consist of the men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, hockey and soccer teams.

The Cambridge, Ont. native embraced the opportunity to join a second team at the beginning of the fall when Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics and the women’s soccer team’s head coach, needed extra players. The Rams roster was depleted, with a total of 10 players facing injuries at the start of the season. Most notably, Alex Rodkin, one of the team’s top strikers, was out for the entirety of the year due to off-season knee surgery.

Clipper has always considered hockey to be her primary sport, but the second-year sport media student has tried to stay connected to soccer. Following her rookie season with the Rams hockey team, she spent this past summer playing for the U21 Guelph Rangers in the Ontario Women’s Soccer League.

“She’s handled it really well,” said Rodkin of Clipper’s transition into a multi-sport varsity athlete.

“She seems to be really good at managing her time to be able to do both sports almost all the time. She fit in really well right away with our whole team.”

Last week, Clipper’s schedule included four soccer practices, four hockey practices, and two games on the ice. The Rams’ women’s soccer team also had a pair of weekend games to finish their season, but because of conflicting schedules, Clipper had to make hockey her priority.

Clipper finishes the soccer season having dressed for three games and playing in two. Assistant coach Tina Cook said her potential as a scoring threat for the Rams is still further down the road, but she impacted her new team in other ways.

“She brings her intensity to practice and I think some of that hockey mentality has helped,” said Cook.

Clipper remains undecided as to whether or not she’ll try to play for the soccer team next year, but she continues to train and prepare herself for when that opportunity comes along. She takes it as a year-to-year decision, one that becomes difficult in later academic years when having to balance a full schedule as a student-athlete.

Clipper’s current grades in the sport media program qualify her for U Sports All-Canadian academic status, which requires a GPA of at least 3.50. It’s a testament to how well she’s been able to manage her time.

“Playing this many sports, being part of the Rams, is definitely something that will help me in my program,” said Clipper. “It gives me an opportunity to experience both roles, as an athlete and as someone in the industry.”

Even though Clipper’s role is unique this season, it’s something the women’s soccer and hockey teams have already experienced with Alex Armstrong, a former goalkeeper for both squads. This year Sydney Sica, a member of the women’s soccer team, also trains with the hockey team, but doesn’t participate in competition.

Armstrong is now with the Guelph Gryphons, but she remembers her time at Ryerson, with the school placing a heavy emphasis on putting academics ahead of athletics.

“When I found out, I told her that she should make sure to take and make time for herself,” said Armstrong. “[I told her to] make sure you’re still able to do school work, but it’s tough when you’re at so many practices, even some on the same day.”

Although Ryerson’s teams practice and train year-round, without soccer games to play Clipper will be able to dedicate more time to hockey, the first sport she joined at Ryerson.

This season could be a big one on the ice for Clipper. The team is without last year’s captain and fellow defenceman, Jessica Hartwick, who graduated last year. With both blueliners having a right-handed shot, a rare commodity in the eyes of their coach, Hartwick’s departure gives Clipper a chance to become a more regular member of the roster. Last year, Clipper played 19 of 24 OUA games as a rookie.

“[Her soccer coaches] like her aggressiveness and tenacity around the ball,” said women’s hockey head coach Lisa Haley. “I think it translates well to what she needs to do as a defenemen in hockey. When she’s at that blue line she needs to be a wall and have that aggressive personality.”

Clipper’s versatility and aggressiveness on the ice and pitch have become valuable assets just a few months into her sophomore year. She’s been able to contribute on both offense and defence for the Rams, which she says is a product of the time she’s devoted to both sports.

“I take my aggressiveness from hockey, and use it towards my attacking mentality in soccer,” said Clipper. “It’s weird, they’re completely different sports, different mentalities, but the aggressiveness is still there.”

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