THE SMELL OF FRESH-CUT GRASS is in the air, the red bricks of university buildings seem to glow in the sun and students spend their lunch-breaks relaxing out in Quad. With such consistently-beautiful weather, this is an ideal time for training outdoors. And for many Golden Bears and Pandas student-athletes, this is the perfect time to be kicking a soccer ball around, taking jogs or knocking around volleyballs on nearby beach courts. Now that July has arrived, practices are starting to build rhythm and intensity, with some teams’ openers a mere two months away.
The Wanderer Online will be providing extensive sports coverage over the upcoming months and year, connecting you with the student-athletes that represent the University of Alberta. But before we release the slew of season previews, player interviews and so on, I think that it’s important to briefly reflect on the Golden Bears and Pandas overall sports program. Though we might not realize it, the Green and Gold are quite possibly the premier all-around sports program in Canada. Very few schools succeed so consistently, from sport to sport and from year to year.
So how do we fare?
In 2011, both the Bears and Pandas soccer programs qualified for Nationals, with each squad coming within several wins of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) glory. Our volleyball teams are historically among the best university-level teams in North America. When the Bears and Pandas take on the best of the best in the United States (Pepperdine, University of California-Irvine, Hawaii, etc.) we often win. Curling recently came away with a CIS title. The hockey teams thrive within the confines of Clare Drake Arena. And the list doesn’t end there. Several student-athletes from every sport progress to professional sporting careers, represent their countries in international competitions such as the Olympics and set a high standard for excelling not only in athletics, but as students and people. This isn’t the exception; it’s routine. Sort of like year-to-year beat-downs of the Lethbridge Pronghorns.
University sports culture differs markedly between the United States and Canada, but while we cannot expect football attendance to exceed 100,000 (as has been seen at Michigan Stadium for tilts between the Wolverines and Notre Dame Fighting Irish), University of Alberta students should come out in hoards to see the Golden Bears and Pandas in action. With brand-new facilities on South Campus, and some of the nation’s finest student-athletes performing on home turf, there is every opportunity to attend some games. Yes, the commute via LRT to South Campus might be slightly burdensome, but it only really takes fifteen minutes. And believe me, there are few things better than spending a warm September afternoon sipping a slurpee, watching Bears and Pandas soccer prevail over the rival Dinos at Foote Field. (Well, there was the one time that I tanned only on the left side of my face, but that was my fault.)
As you return to The Wanderer Online over the next months, be sure to check out the sports section. Not only do we have a marquee team of writers, headed by Andrew Booth and his Rick Reilly-reminiscent wit – but we will also be introducing the students that don the Green and Gold jerseys to you. If you ever have any questions or requests, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to tailor our in-depth sports coverage to your reading desires.
Emerson Csorba is a third-year Sciences Politiques student, writer, avid runner and fashion magazine addict. You can find him on the River Valley trails or relaxing in Remedy. He is slowly making his way through Alastair I.M. Rae’s Quantum Physics.