Lydia Hicks copy

More than just student-athletes With the school year winding down, three Marauders are using their platforms as student-athletes to make a positive impact in their community

For swimmer and fourth-year biology student Victoria Giglio, staying busy is just a way of life.

“I find that by keeping busy and doing multiple things, it helps me take a break from a previous task, said Giglio. “If I am feeling overwhelmed, it allows me return to something with a better mindset.”

The coach of the Dundas Seahawks Special Olympics swim team, a Mac Athletes Care executive and a Physical Activity Centre for Excellence aquatics program volunteer, Giglo certainly has lots of opportunity to switch up what she is working on.

But she also has a chance to use her own experience in the pool to make a positive impact for others.

“I think that sports and community service definitely teach some of the same lessons,” said Giglio. “As a veteran on a team and in a leadership role volunteering, I can provide my knowledge and experience to younger athletes and community members. It has made me a better leader, and given me the ability to work as a group towards a common goal.”

Giglo was one of four McMaster students nominated for the Les Prince award, an annual title given to varsity athletes demonstrated outstanding community service. Nominated by their respective coaching staff, each nominee has spilt their time representing Mac on the field and off, contributing to volunteer initiatives in the greater Hamilton area.

This year the Les Prince Award was presented to women’s hockey team captain Michelle Biehl, in honor of her outstanding contributions to the Hamilton community. Biehl has been an active supporter of several community initiatives including Boys and Girls Clubs kids to campus trips, Think Pink to benefit breast cancer, and the the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport Succeed Clean program.

But finding the balance between community work and sport can be difficult, especially with the stressors of everyday academic life. For fencer and third-year biochemistry student Chris Zhang, figuring out a system that works is an ongoing process.

“Like any other student, that perfect balance is something I’m consistently trying to achieve,” said Zhang. “I don’t think I’ve found it yet. I find it difficult to assign strict priorities because my sport, my volunteering and my academics are all very important to me… It is the difficult choices we make in these experiences that define the type of experience we have.”

When he isn’t leading the sabre team to team a silver finish at the Ontario University Athletics championships, Zhang has looked to define his time at Mac by volunteering with the Good Food Box program and the Good Shepherd Christmas Toy Drive. He has also organized fencing demonstrations for the Hamilton community, and worked with Mac Athletes Care throughout the year.

“Sports and community service have provided me with an opportunity to look at life from a different perspective,” said Zhang. “it gets very easy to get lost in a world of studying, testing and grades… volunteering with causes I believe in is a chance to try and step out and try to make the world a better place… [it reminds me] that there is more that can be learned in life then what [we are] simply taught.”

Another alumna of the Mac Athletes Care program, Lydia Hicks has her earned her fair share of life lessons.

“When I find activities that I really love, like rugby and Mac Athletes Care, it’s pretty hard for me to say no to them,” said Hicks. “I think [it] has actually allowed for better time management for schoolwork, because they force me to be productive and get work done in the time gaps that I have. I actually find that when don’t have activities in my week… I’m less productive and I procrastinate more!”

A third-year Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior student, Hicks doesn’t have much time on her hands to waste. But the days she has spent interacting with community members has taught to cherish the simpler things in life. Whether it is sports or volunteering, for Hicks, it all comes down the human connection.

“Everyone goes through his or her own personal battles, and it’s important to establish some sort of network of support to fall back on when you need it,” said Hicks.

“On the rugby team, I have amazing teammates and coaches, and we are always there to listen and support each other whenever we need it. [With volunteering] I’ve had the chance to establish some really great connections with youth who are going through struggles of their own. Even if it’s just a small conversation with someone, that can be an opportunity to help them to get through… and potentially make their day a little bit brighter.”

For all they have done, the McMaster community is certainly a little brighter for this year nominees. Let’s hope they stay busy.

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