By Luis Morales
For many athletes, competition reaches its peak at the intercollegiate level. For others, competing at the CIS level serves as a preparatory ground for advancement into a professional career. This has certainly been the case for a select group of Calgary Storm players, who after succeeding at the highest level of soccer in the CIS, are now playing professionally in North America’s “A” League.
Mark McKenna and Mike Pavicic are former student-athletes who, after dominating at the intercollegiate level, have continued their athletic careers at the core of the Calgary Storm.
Like them, Brian Newmarch, a fourth-year student, captain of the University of Calgary men’s soccer team, and first team all-star in the CIS Canada West Conference for 2002, is also beginning his professional career early. The defenceman played last summer with the Premier Development League and is now part of the talented Calgary Storm.
The move to professional sports is demanding as players are forced to enhance their level of play. The pressure is slowly mounting on Newmarch as his consistency as a player is crucial to his success and his playing time. However, being a varsity captain, pressure is nothing new.
Being a student-athlete is by no means an easy task and the dual grind of schoolwork and athletics allowed Newmarch to develop his character and work ethic both on and off the field. Immersed in a learning environment for the past four years, Newmarch developed the ability to adapt quickly to new situations.
"I have acquired the organizational and time-management skills that I need to do well on and off the field," he said. "Although play-ing in the ‘A’ League entails playing a more technical game which may not predominate in varsity soccer, being a student athlete keeps me sharp and allows me to be mentally prepared for the challenges that the ‘A’ League brings."
Having players like Newmarch, or "Newmy" as his teammates call him, will only help varsity teams like the Dinos and professional soccer teams like the Storm.
Storm Head Coach Thomas Niendorf explained that athletes such as Newmarch are able to benefit from varsity soccer because they get exposure during the varsity season. Their maturity and open-mindedness also add to their coach-ability and their outdoor season is extended because it carries well into the beginning of November.
Reciprocally, the varsity pro-grams are also enhanced, as players are able to contribute to the success of the university teams once the varsity season begins.
Because the Canada West Conference is the most competitive in the CIS, the move from amateur to professional sports has been less dramatic for players like Newmarch. The high level of competition in the CIS serves as a stepping-stone for athletes who wish to continue their soccer careers as professionals.
Newmarch, if successful, will be happy to continue this trend, and if history is any indicator, the odds are in his favour.