Varsity

Life as a Dual-Sport Athlete: Rachel Streekstra

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By Danielle Blumentrath

When it comes to college athletes, it’s no secret they have a full plate. Committing to a college sport comes with the pressure of juggling classes, practices, workouts, often a job and maybe even fitting in a social life. Now, imagine playing another sport on top of it all. Although it is rare, some student athletes make the decision to take on a second sport at the college level.

Rachel Streekstra is one of those rare dual-sport athletes from Loyalist college who has dedicated her time to playing two varsity sports, rugby and volleyball, while in post-secondary education.

Rachel Streekstra carefully balances rugby and volleyball and academics at Loyalist. (Loyalist College)

The first-year athlete has been playing both sports for over five years and her passion drives her to continue competing at the college level.

Streekstra is from Toledo, Ontario, an hour north of Kingston, and said she has always loved playing competitive volleyball, but was inspired by her high school coach who introduced her to playing rugby.

“I have never been pushed harder. He taught me the game, the meaning of being a student-athlete and the meaning of working hard,” she said.

So, when it came to tryouts at Loyalist College, it was a no brainer that Rachel would pursue the two sports she loves.

For most first-year students the pressure of navigating college includes finding balance between schoolwork, a new living arrangement and meeting new friends. However, for Streekstra, most of her time is dedicated to her academics and both rugby and volleyball. 

“I’m not even going to lie to you some nights I would just go home and not even make it to my bed. I’d just lay on the floor.”

– Rachel Streekstra, Rugby and Volleyball player at Loyalist

 Coming into college she planned on trying out for both teams, and while Rachel said, “this has been an amazing year and I wouldn’t change playing two sports for anything,” the year didn’t come without the exhausting and sometimes overwhelming pressures many student-athletes experience at times.

 “I’m not even going to lie to you some nights I would just go home and not even make it to my bed. I’d just lay on the floor and not going to lie I cried. Because I’d either be so mentally and physically exhausted or stressed.” Streekstra said.

While the student-athlete admits there were some challenging times managing it all throughout the seasons, she could not imagine not playing both sports.

“Honestly sometimes, I think every athlete has a point where they question if it’s worth it. But then when you’re running down a field and no one’s able to touch you, and you get that try (rugby) or get that kill or big stuff (volleyball) you remember that this is why it’s worth it and why you love it.”

For Rachel it’s her passion for competition that drives her to play both sports while in school. “It’s very busy, which I absolutely love,” she said. She believes attending a smaller school has been a contributing factor towards the support she’s received throughout the year. “Because we’re a small school, we know everyone here and there’s a lot of support. Even the amount of people you know just from being a varsity athlete is pretty crazy,” Streekstra said.

 Not only does the help of fellow athletes play a role in a successful year for this dual-sport athlete, she also attributes her success to the support received from both her rugby and volleyball coach.

 “Both were really great. They knew being a dual-sport athlete takes up so much time and dedication. I had to sacrifice a lot of things. Instead of hanging out with friends, I was at the gym training or at practice or I was studying because I didn’t have that time that other people had during the week nights,” Streekstra said.

 While the seasons for both sports are relatively separate, there is a month of overlap between the end of rugby season and the first few games of the volleyball season. Head volleyball coach, Dominique Dawes has coached many dual-sport athletes throughout her career and believes the way to set any athlete up for success is through clear communication from the start.

  “The number one thing is communication, it is extremely important not only with the athlete but with the coaches,” Dawes said. She also checked in on Streekstra’s health before practices and made sure all the other girls on the volleyball team knew Rachel was a dual-sport athlete.

 Dawes said the girls on her team were all extremely supportive. They even went out to most home rugby games as a group to support Streekstra.

 While Streekstra’s passion is for rugby and volleyball, she is also excited about the paramedic program she is taking in school. While her love for both sports gives her joy, she is also focused on her dream of being a flight paramedic. She is learning that even though she is making personal sacrifices, she is still achieving her current and long term goals.

 “I didn’t mind making sacrifices because I know my other teammates were making them and I wanted to get better and be better,” she said. “The school also really supported me.”

 In terms of the coach’s role in supporting dual-sport athletes, Dawes understands that some of the responsibility is on her to check in with the athletes.

 “Checking base with the other coach to see how she is doing was important. Sometimes there are those athletes that are really gung-hoe and want to give it 100 percent, but you really can’t. You will burn out. So, monitoring them is very important as a coach to these athletes and I like to think I took the pressure off for her,” Dawes said.

  While the life of a dual-sport athlete can come with sacrifices, there is no hesitation from the coaches to allow these athletes to participate in both sports. “Think about athletes that battle so much worse things. If this is their outlet, I didn’t want to have to make her choose or stop her from pursuing her passions,” Dawes said.

 Being physically active is really good for students and she believes it is important to follow careers and sports you are passionate about. Therefore, Dawes said when it came to performance time, because Rachel knew she had a choice, she was able to take care of herself accordingly and, “she knew we had her back,” said Dawes.

 Now almost at the end of her first year, when asked if she would do it all again, Rachel said without hesitation, “even when I go back to school after my two-year program, I plan to play at least one sport. So, you’ll see me in the OCAA for a little bit!” 

 Her volleyball coach has the same positivity and described this year as fantastic. “As a first-year athlete coming in, I would think she loved her first year. I supported her and I’m proud of her. She did a fantastic job,”  Dawes said.

 Rachel’s passion was the driving force to compete on two sports teams.  Although, at times, it was overwhelming this student-athlete would not change her experience and plans on doing it again next year

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