The ACAC is slowly becoming home to many players from outside Canada. The ACAC and CCAA, the leagues that NAIT competes in, have a cap on the number of international players allowed and as of late, it is a growing trend for ACAC teams to reach this capacity – including NAIT.
It’s reasonable to expect a few problems in the recruitment and integration of international student-athletes into Canadian sports and culture. After lengthy discussions, we developed a list of potential issues that could be prevalent within the relationships between these players and their school.
Once we began looking deeper into this idea, we discovered a few kinks within the system while also recognizing the work NAIT has been doing in managing this situation.
A possible dilemma is that importing players from outside of the country may create similar issues that the temporary foreign workers program has sparked in Alberta. This program is still met with comments about whether the province is justified in bringing workers in from other nations to fill jobs. We believed it is not out of the realm of possibility that international players may face opponents that believe they or their child deserves a roster spot over a foreign player due to their Canadian citizenship.
“I don’t see it as an issue by any means,” said Dawson These. These was a red-shirt player (a student athlete who attends classes and practices with the team but does not play) last semester for NAIT’s men’s basketball team.
“When I was redshirting, I knew there was a reason an international player was playing above me. There’s no reason, because he’s international, that I should be pulling ahead of him. It comes down to skill in my opinion,” he said.
Another possible issue is the cost of living and tuition for international athletes. “For some [Americans] it’s a chance to get a really good education at a fraction of the cost,” said Ooks Athletics Director John Bower. NAIT has some of the cheapest tuition within the ACAC, making it welcoming to players of most socio-economic backgrounds.
While many international athletes receive scholarships through sports, there still are issues related to playing in Alberta. “In [the] case that you fail in school, which happens a lot … you would have to pay for [the semester] that you failed. If this happened to me, all the money I have saved to pay my rent, buy my groceries, you know, to live, would go to pay this,” said Ooks basketball player Nikos Papavasileiou.
International athletes do not have access to Canadian student loan s and tuition. International students generally pay more than double what Canadian students pay. This could make it difficult for students from developing countries.
The final conceivable obstacle is the pressure these players may feel to perform academically and athletically. International players can be costly and this could create the perception that students “owe” something in return for a school providing them financial assistance. “We have the student athlete interests at heart,” said Bower.
“…We don’t own anybody. Students are still coming to school – yes, they’re playing sports but it’s priority No. 1 for them to get their education,” he added.
On the conflicting side, some students still feel there is pressure on international players to perform. “They [NAIT] hold you to a much higher standard in school and on the court because it’s like your job. If they pay for your school, you have to compete at a higher level,” said Jasmine Jones in an interview detailing her experience as an international player on NAIT’s women’s basketball team.
“For sure, I’d say they have way more pressure than us,” said These. It is apparent that there are hurdles some international athletes face when adjusting to the student-athlete lifestyle in the ACAC.
– Jory Proft