Danielle Kisser is shining her light

Despite challenges, Kisser has created a fulfilling swimming career for herself

Danielle Kisser had always been very athletic as a kid. Before she reached the age of 11, she had played basketball, soccer, softball, and even did horseback riding. However, around that age, she realized that she soon wouldn’t be able to keep up with her teammates and competitors because they were all getting taller, and she wasn’t.

Kisser has achondroplasia dwarfism — a bone growth disorder. The 26-year-old’s condition was diagnosed ever since she was eight months old.

Although she stopped practicing a lot of the sports she used to participate in at 11, she found a new passion: swimming.

In 2008, Kisser attended one of her brother’s swimming practices. After the team’s practice, her brother’s coach — who was involved with paralympic swimming — brought up the sport to her and suggested she attend practice. Although she initially disregarded the offer because “it wasn’t [her] thing,” she ended up attending and quickly started liking it.

“I was good at it,” Kisser said. “It gave me something else to do, a new challenge. Swimming was also something where I wasn’t getting left behind as I was on the soccer field or the basketball court, it was something that I could excel at.”

She also felt like she could be competitive and she liked racing against other people “just like [her].” 

Anyone who has a disability can participate in para-swimming, but there is a classification system with 14 levels to ensure athletes are competing against people who have similar abilities. Levels one through 10 are assigned to athletes with physical disabilities. Levels 11-13 are for those with visual impairments and level 14 is made up of people with intellectual disabilities. Kisser competes in the sixth level.

It took her two years to make her first national team. In her 15-year-long swimming career, she also got to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

“It was like a dream that I’d had for 13 years at the time,” she said. “It was my third time trying to make it and then finally it worked out. I made a final there with a relay.”

Nonetheless, competing without a cheering crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions was a strange experience for Kisser.

“The whole experience was crazy and racing in an empty stadium was a challenge,” she said. “But getting to fulfill [my dream] was all I could ask for.”

Swimming has been one of the most consistent things in Kisser’s life. Being this active and training up to 10 times a week has been beneficial for her.

“My health and well-being is just so much better now because of being fit and being able to walk for long periods of time,” she said. “A lot of people with dwarfism, they have back problems, knee problems, just like different body issues. But for me, being able to be so physically fit and active has been very helpful.”

For Kisser, being in the water also contributes to her mental well-being.

“It’s a place where it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, what you look like, or what people have said about you,” she said. “It’s just there and you get to decide what you do with it. For me, the water is there to support me if I just want to swim. It’s there to propel me forward.”

And forward she went. She was able to represent Canada in multiple international competitions.

“I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to pursue it for as long as I have,” Kisser said. “This led to so many cool opportunities. I’ve met some of my best friends swimming.”

But it also led to some of her biggest challenges. Kisser went through several injuries, concussions, and other hardships. Nonetheless, she said that it shaped her and that this experience remains her “greatest gift.”

Four years ago, Kisser also started her own YouTube channel, called This Little Light. As she was comfortable in front of cameras, she wanted to document her life and share her experiences. Recently, she has been documenting her swimming endeavours.

Mainly, she wants people to know that they all have a light to shine and an opportunity to make the world brighter.

“The way that I shine my light is by showing people what it is like to live with a disability, letting the young kids who have dwarfism know that life is going to be OK. This is what you can do,” she said.

After 15 fulfilling years of swimming, Kisser is now contemplating retirement, as she will also be graduating from Concordia University with a double major in linguistics and theology. She said she’s excited about life after swimming and taking the lessons she learned from her career elsewhere.

“I kind of checked all the things that I want to do,” she explained. “I’ve been to every major competition that you can go to and I’m satisfied. The biggest thing for me was realizing I didn’t need another Paralympics or another medal to feel like a better person.”

According to her former coach Mike Thompson, who is also the head coach of the national team, Kisser will have left a long-lasting mark on the team.

“She’s had such an influence and an impact on the national team, this centre, and the way we do things right now,” Thompson said. “I’m really impressed with where she’s at and happy with what I’ve been able to be a part of.”

Kisser is looking forward to revisiting all the sports she once loved as a kid, but one thing she will never stop doing is shining her light.


The reality of social cohabitation in Milton-Parc

Everyone has a role to play in ensuring a harmonious coexistence between housed and unhoused residents

On the sidewalks of Milton Street and Parc Avenue, several individuals sit in groups in makeshift camps. They’ve come to know this territory well and call it home. Nonetheless, they share the neighbourhood with housed residents, businesspeople, and students.

Milton-Parc, a Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood, is known for its high concentration of homeless communities. Due to their clashing realities within the borough, these communities struggle to cohabitate.

“It’s a reality that’s been around a long time and the situation has only evolved since then,” said Sami Ghzala, a planning consultant for the city of Montreal. Ghzala lived in Milton-Parc for 25 years before moving to Little Italy.

This feeling is shared by many, including Jonathan Lebire, a street worker of 20 years, who has noticed the neighbourhood that he knows well evolve into what it is today.

“We’re talking about a crisis right now, but the problem has been known for over 10 years,” he said. 

The approach of  “social cohabitation” — the coexistence between housed and unhoused people — led residents of Milton Park to denounce the situation to the Ombudsman de Montreal (OdM), a resource for citizens dissatisfied or adversely affected by the City of Montreal’s decisions or services.

According to residents interviewed in an OdM report, instances of drug consumption, sanitary issues, as well as physical and sexual assaults have contributed to a growing feeling of insecurity among housed residents of Milton-Parc.

The OdM outlined several recommendations to solve what they now call a “humanitarian crisis,” notably the implementation of a citizen’s committee on social cohabitation. During a Plateau-Mont-Royal council meeting on Feb. 6, the borough approved the committee, dubbed the “Comité de bon voisinage de Milton-Parc.”

Ghzala was tasked with creating the committee and now facilitates and coordinates its meetings. So far, the committee has met twice.

“In our second meeting, we established that tackling the feeling of insecurity was the committee’s first objective,” he said. “Many housed residents and businesspeople expressed that concern.”

However Kody Crowell, a street worker at Plein Milieu, an organization that deals with homelessness in the Plateau, added that insecurity is felt on both sides.

“When neighbours talk about how they feel unsafe, I usually turn it back on them and ask them if they think this individual feels safe sleeping on the street at constant risk of harassment by police, having their things stolen, violence, or getting hit by a car,” Crowell said.

The Comité de bon voisinage de Milton-Parc is made up of seven people who have lived in Milton-Parc for several years. Accounting for the overwhelming proportion of Indigenous unhoused people, the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal also takes part in the meetings. While Indigenous people only make up one per cent of the Plateau-Mont-Royal population, they make up 12 per cent of the unhoused population, according to the OdM report.

According to Crowell, this is a result of many factors.

“With Indigenous homelessness, you know, we’re talking about hundreds of years of colonization,” Crowell explained. “We’re talking about a housing crisis up north. We’re talking about addiction, domestic violence.”

Over the course of its mandate, the committee will discuss ways to improve the coexistence between both populations, cleanliness, and the sharing of public spaces.

“We are all supposed to have the right to safely occupy public spaces,” said Annie Savage, director of the Réseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal, an organization that defends the rights of unhoused people and provides them with resources. “Unfortunately, someone living through homelessness will constantly be displaced.”

Savage also added that they’ve received reports of a growth in the unhoused population from Plein Milieu.

However, defining good social cohabitation is difficult. As Savage pointed out, the term is mostly used by housed people while unhoused people will rather talk about sharing public spaces. 

Crowell even further nuanced the term. “They’re fighting for their life, they’re not thinking about cohabitation,” he said.

The Comité du bon voisinage de Milton Parc aims to ensure everyone can safely occupy public spaces. However, the responsibility doesn’t fall on the committee alone.

“Everyone, every organization, has a part to play in social cohabitation,” said Catherine Lessard, chief administrator of community organizers at the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (CIUSSS). “It isn’t relevant to someone more than another and everyone has a part of the solution.”

The CIUSSS supports community groups that promote social cohabitation, like the Comité de bon voisinage de Milton-Parc. They bridge the gaps between services and demand, while also employing a team that works directly with unhoused people.

“Just like a social worker works on an individual level, we work at the scale of the community,” added Lessard.

While Savage agreed with Lessard that everyone carries a responsibility to ensure harmonious social cohabitation, she saw a lack of willingness from the government in solving the problem of homelessness.

“The municipal and provincial governments constantly pass the ball back and forth on who has responsibility,” Savage said. “Montreal keeps saying that it’s up to Quebec to finance initiatives regarding mental health and community groups specialized in homelessness.”

While government officials and community groups share a considerable load of the responsibility, Ghzala, who coordinates Milton-Parc’s social cohabitation committee, said the committee found that there are there are gestures any housed resident can do to promote social cohabitation.

Ghzala relayed the thoughts of one committee member.

“[They said] conversing with your neighbours, housed or not, [would help],” said Ghzala. “Do you know their names? How many people know the names of the unhoused people who have lived next to them for years?”

Crowell echoed the need to listen to unhoused people.

“These people know what they need and it’s on us to listen,” he said. “Listen to the people who are actually affected by this situation. They know their needs.”

For Lebire, however, the solution to homelessness in Milton-Parc is indeed cohabitation.

“You want for those people to want to reintegrate [into] a society that marginalized them,” he explained. “We’re always defending their rights without ever giving them responsibilities or opportunities for them to be more than victims.”

It’s with that idea in mind that Lebire created his own grassroots organization, Comm-Un. Its aim is to empower people experiencing homelessness and to communicate with them on equal footing.

Lebire says that “it takes a village” to address homelessness. Whether it’s through organizations that empower or give resources to people experiencing homelessness, or by taking the time to know your neighbours, everyone can make a difference in social cohabitation.

Correction: A quote from Sami Ghzala has been modified to attribute the opinions of a member of Milton-Parc’s social cohabitation committee, not Ghzala.


Use physical activity to your advantage this end of semester

“Something is better than nothing,” experts say

It’s the final sprint, the home stretch, the end of the third period: it’s exam season, and it comes with an overwhelming amount of stress and an extremely compact schedule.

However, to navigate this stress, your greatest ally could very well be physical activity. Erin Goldstein, course instructor in the department of applied human sciences and education at Concordia, emphasized how exercise complements studying.

“When you exercise, your body releases endorphins,” Goldstein said. “We know that exercise helps you concentrate, helps with your memory, helps with your sleep.”

Starting an exercise routine in the middle of a time crunch can seem daunting, but you need less physical activity than you think to get the stress release. Dr. Simon Bacon, professor in the department of applied health, kinesiology and physiology, said that going from nothing to something brings the biggest benefits.

“Just the action of doing something, doing some physical activity is where you get the most benefit,” Bacon said. “Then, the more you can layer on top of that, the better off you’re going to be.”

“If you’re someone that’s currently doing nothing, even just doing a little bit to start is so beneficial for you,” added Goldstein.

Both Goldstein and Bacon are aware of the lack of time that the end of the semester brings. They proposed ways to fit physical activity into your current routine. 

Bacon strongly suggests breaking up your next study session with light physical activity.

“If you’ve been sitting at the computer for an hour, getting up and walking two minutes can actually impact a whole bunch of things physiologically that indirectly we’ve seen is related to stress,” he said. “Small things count.”

Along the same lines, he encouraged students who have classes on upper floors to climb a few flights of stairs on the way.

“Oftentimes, having small little tweaks is manageable and doesn’t create additional strain,” he said. “You don’t want to be adding to the stress in certain circumstances.”

Goldstein spoke on the upcoming spring weather, which will be ideal for short walks in-between study sessions. Otherwise, she mentioned the panoply of guided exercise routines that exist on YouTube. Most importantly, she emphasized the importance of remaining realistic.

“Starting smaller is always better because you’re more realistic and you’re more able to crush that goal,” she said. “You feel really good about it and motivated to go for more.”

Bacon added that students who are already fit and have a set exercise routine, when put under a stressful situation, have a lesser reaction.

“Regular physical activity ahead of time is going to give you some degree of protection in an acute stressful situation,” he explained.

Nonetheless, he said that you shouldn’t add to your current amounts of stress by worrying about keeping a strict exercise schedule.

“In a short-term situation [of stress], doing the thing that’s going to give you the greatest peace of mind is going to be predominant,” he said. “If it’s going to stress you out more to go to the gym than it is to sit down to do that studying, do the study.”

Goldstein also noted that, on top of physical activity, having a good sleep schedule and good nutrition is crucial. She recommends seven to nine hours of sleep and meal-prepping for the following week.

“Trying to stay away from processed foods, trying to eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, plant proteins, those are going to be really beneficial to help with mood,” she explained.

Now, once you’ve aced your exams and reduced your stress using these tips, don’t forget to congratulate yourself and allow yourself to relax. Then, consider implementing physical activity into your regular routine. But remember, the key is to be realistic and progressive.


Connor Church shines at the 2023 Canadian Wrestling Championships

The Concordia wrestler and marketing student talks about his recent success at the university and national levels

Concordia student and wrestler Connor Church dominated at the 2023 Canadian Wrestling Championships, and his performance was telling of the wrestler he is.

The nineteen-year-old participated with his club, the Montreal National Training Centre (NTC), and began the championships wrestling in the junior division, which encompasses ages 18 to 20. The entirety of the championships was held from March 9-12.

Church had four matches in the men’s 79 kg junior division that all ended in technical falls, which automatically ends a match once a 10-point difference occurs.

Not wanting to leave any chances for his opponents, he won all his matches within the first round.

Church also wrestled in the senior division to see how he would measure next year and to gain experience.

“I wanted to see what I would need to work on, but it ended up going really well,” he said.

Indeed, the senior competition went no different than the junior. He once again ended all his matches in a single round due to technical falls. However, he still noticed a “huge difference” in the level of competition between both divisions.

“The senior guys are a lot stronger, a lot more experienced,” he said. “There are a lot of smarter wrestlers, they were tougher matches, but I was still able to get the job done.”

His coach at both Concordia and the Montreal NTC, David Zilberman, was very glad with Church’s performance.

“I thought he dominated everybody,” Zilberman said. “He wrestled really well. There’s still a lot to work on, but in the long term he shows a lot of promise to be an elite competitor on the international scene.”

His junior division win was his second in a row. In both years, it earned him a spot on Team Canada for the U20 Pan-American Championships.

He won bronze at the Pan-American Championships last year, but his eyes are set on gold this year for when they will be held in Chile.

Church attributes a lot of his success at the Canadian championships to his club. Because he practiced with older and more experienced teammates, he was prepared for the age difference in the senior competition.

“I wrestle against some of the best wrestlers in Canada every day at our club,” he said. “It gives me confidence going into every match.”

Church started wrestling six years ago in Winnipeg, his hometown. Then, in August 2021, he reached out to the coaches at Concordia.

“I knew that, if I wanted to excel at wrestling, this is the place where I wanted to be in Canada,” he said.

He was invited by Zilberman to try out and shortly thereafter, he moved to Montreal and started training with Concordia, as well as competing with the Montreal NTC. Zilberman remembers him displaying a lot of physical talent.

“He was strong and explosive, but a little raw,” Zilberman said. “He’s definitely evolved into a more technical wrestler, but he’s still very strong and gifted and that helps him a lot.”

“He puts in a lot of hours of training and he’s learning the game really quickly,” Zilberman added. “He has a strong character and will to win and it’s really important.”

This year was Church’s first time competing with the Concordia team and, in his first U Sports Championships, Church won the gold medal in the men’s 76 kg.

“That win, going into nationals, really boosted my confidence,” Church said. “It helped my success in the national championships and built my momentum.”

Church has indeed been on a roll ever since his move to Montreal. His innate motivation has undeniably been central in his achievements.

“I’m always willing to wake up and go to practice,” he said, adding that he trains two to three times a day, six days a week. “It’s a pursuit of excellence [for me].”

Church’s love for wrestling is palpable and a big part of his success.

“Nothing is more important to me,” he said. “It’s all I think about all day. It’s an obsession, really.”

Church’s next big tournament will be the 2023 Canadian U23 Wrestling Championships held in Laval on May 27-28. On top of the U20 Pan-American Championships in July, he will also be headed to Poland in August for the U20 World Championships.

“I’ve been eyeing that down for a full year now and that’s been my goal to get that win,” he said.


Areej Burgonio: A leader by example

The Stingers women’s basketball guard discusses stepping up as a leader this basketball season

There is a world of difference between the rookie Areej Burgonio was in 2018 and the veteran star she became this past season.

Going into the 2022-23 season, Stingers guard Burgonio was one of two senior players in a young team. It was also the first time in her four-year career with the Stingers that she had to take on a leadership role. 

“I had such great strong role models, and I was put in the position where I have to be that strong role model now,” said Burgonio.

It was a challenging adjustment at first for the Stingers playmaker who was previously known to keep more to herself.

“Being patient, being able to lead on and off the court, mentoring my rookies until they can be better basketball players while also keeping in mind that I have to perform as a point guard, it was tough,” she said. “But I’m glad I had that opportunity.”

Burgonio started playing basketball when she was 12 years old. Before coming to Concordia, she played for Crestwood Preparatory School, a Toronto high school with a well-established basketball program.

She went on to compete in a tournament in New York with her team from Crestwood, where she met Stingers head coach Tenicha Gittens for the first time.

“Out of all the places, coach [Gittens] was there,” recalled Burgonio. “At first, given the location, I didn’t expect her to introduce herself from a Montreal university. Not going to lie, I [had] never heard of Concordia up until I met her.”

Head coach Tenicha Gittens and Burgonio on Senior Day. Evan Buhler/ Concordia Athletics

For Gittens, it was Burgonio’s attitude on the court that stood out to her.

“She [was] one of the smallest players on the court, but there was just something about her grit,” said Gittens. “I love the way she didn’t back down.”

Burgonio stands at five-feet tall, but Gittens didn’t think that mattered.

“She was one of the biggest players in terms of heart, aggressiveness and competitiveness,” she added. “That’s something I knew we needed on our team.”

The two stayed in contact, and when Burgonio eventually enrolled in sociology at Concordia,  she was invited to join the women’s basketball team after being scouted by the coaching staff while playing in Toronto.

As a 17-year-old rookie, Burgonio was surrounded by a very mature and strong team.

“I had to grow up fast,” Burgonio said. “When you’re surrounded by so many people like Caroline Task and Myriam Leclerc, you conform to their standards, which is excellence and nothing less.”

That year, Myriam Leclerc was a rookie guard like Burgonio, and Caroline Task was a third-year guard.

Burgonio went on to be named to the RSEQ All-Rookie team. Four years later, she was named to the RSEQ’s First Team All-Star and finished the season as the second-best scorer in the RSEQ.

Burgonio’s teammates pointed out that, throughout her career, the star player matured into a better and smarter athlete with extensive knowledge of plays and a great vision of the court. She also became more outspoken, especially this season.

“She had to be one of our top scorers, had to be one of our leaders defensively and be one of our facilitators as well,” said Gittens. “There is no player that I’ve coached at Concordia that has had more responsibility put on their shoulders and has stepped up to it.”

Serena Tchida, the team’s captain and a third-year forward, said that Burgonio abruptly went from being the sixth player to playing 40 minutes per game.

“This year, we didn’t have anyone on top of us to rely on so we had to take on leadership ourselves,” said Tchida. “She really embraced her role, especially when I injured myself and I wasn’t there to help her anymore.”

For the rookies of the team, having a veteran like Burgonio made all the difference.

“She wants to set an example for us,” said rookie forward Fabiola Lamour. “She takes the time to explain plays and she makes sure everyone is on the same page.”

Lamour recalled Burgonio often saying “my money’s on us,” her way of showing her team she believed in them. She also noted that Burgonio had made her feel welcomed on the team from the get-go.

Although Burgonio is a senior, she still has one year of eligibility left with the Stingers. She noted that, given she is only 22, she isn’t ready to walk away just yet.

“I do have goals, for example, going on the national team from the Philippines and playing professionally,” she said. “But at the same time I know that this chapter isn’t fully over if I still have that one year.”


At least consider watching baseball this season

The new rules announced for the 2023 season might just make the game more exciting

Baseball fans aren’t known to be receptive to rule changes within their sport, and I am usually no different. That is, until I heard about the new rules announced for the 2023 season.

From the start of spring training, players have had to get used to bigger bases, restrictions on defensive shifts, and a pitch clock. While it has been a learning curve, these rules promise to quicken the pace of action and encourage defensive plays.

The new pitch clock is undoubtedly the biggest change. From now on, pitchers will have up to 15 seconds to throw the ball if the bases are empty, and 20 if there is a runner on base. There will also be a 30-second timer between batters. If the batter violates the time limit, they get a strike. If it’s the pitcher, the batter gets a ball.

This new rule may make games shorter — and believe me, most spectators would appreciate that — but most importantly, it will make the action unfold quicker. It will definitely make the experience more enjoyable and engaging for fans.

The pitcher will now also have only three attempts to throw to first base to get a runner out. If the third attempt fails, the runner gets to advance a base. Because of the limit, stealing bases might become a more common occurrence.

The pitch clock and new defensive shift restrictions will also favour batting averages and the athletic plays that baseball players are known for. 

The defensive shift restrictions entail that the four infielders must be within the diamond when the pitch is thrown. Two players must be on either side of second base, which means they cannot switch sides based on where the batter aims most.

Because of this, batting averages are likely to go up and more runners will be on bases, giving infielders more opportunities for defensive plays. It will also encourage singles and on-field action.

Ironically, this change brings back traditional infielder alignments and the plays that tended to happen before infielders started placing themselves wherever they are more likely to catch the ball.

Meanwhile, the square bases will go from being 15 inches wide to 18. Some argue that this will create more stealing, but the MLB mainly wanted to make stealing and base-running safer.

Luckily, players have all of spring to train and adjust to these new rules and prepare for the regular season. These changes guarantee an exciting 2023 season and a new era in baseball. I can’t wait to tune in to the home openers, and I hope you will too.


Two Stingers football players are headed to the CFL Combine

Quarterback Olivier Roy and wide receiver Jeremy Murphy will represent Concordia at the National CFL Combine

Over five days in March, Concordia Stingers’ quarterback Olivier Roy and wide receiver Jeremy Murphy will be evaluated by CFL general managers and scouts during the 2023 National CFL Combine.

The National Combine gathers 50 top-rated prospects from Canadian universities in preparation for the CFL draft. Out of all the prospects, Roy is the only quarterback invited.

“I wasn’t thinking about it too much, but I knew it was my draft year and I had some chances to go to the Combine,” said Roy.

The combine typically invites only a few prospect quarterbacks and instead features guest quarterbacks. This was the case for Roy last year who was a guest player, but wasn’t evaluated as a prospect.

Stingers’ football head coach Brad Collinson said that they value quarterbacks at the Combine to throw to the receivers, so having been a guest in 2022 helped him get invited in 2023.

Olivier Roy in a game vs. the McGill Redbirds, 2022. Catherine Reynolds/ The Concordian

“He deserves it and it gives him the opportunity to experience something on a bigger stage,” said Collinson.

Roy also participated in a training camp with the Ottawa Redblacks and another quarterback camp in British Columbia last year.

Collinson said that he expected that both Roy and Murphy would be invited to this year’s Combine. 

He also noted the accolades Murphy has racked up in the three seasons he’s played with the Stingers.

“He’s had a great career here at Concordia, being U Sports Rookie of the Year [in 2019],” said Collinson. “He was invited to the [U Sports East-West Bowl] last year so it didn’t surprise me.”

Murphy was a two-time RSEQ all-star in 2019 and 2022. He was also named to the first All-Canadian U Sports football team last year, so he was anticipating an invitation to the CFL Combine.

“If I didn’t make it to the combine, I would have been very disappointed in myself,” he said.

Murphy had participated in the Texas College Gridiron Showcase in January, where he was evaluated by both NFL and CFL scouts. He expects the experience he gained during that event to help him during the upcoming combine in March.

“It’s kind of the same thing,” said Murphy. “I know what to expect. It’s just the people I’m going to go against are different, the talent level is different.”

He also mentioned the possibility that scouts want to see his ability to compete against American players, as would be the case in the CFL.

“I think they wanted to see my ability to go against American players, because there are a lot of Americans that play in the CFL,” he added.

According to Collinson, the most important thing for Murphy and Roy to do is to be themselves.

“There are going to be a lot of eyes on them,” he said. “They’re going to be in front of a big crowd with a lot of scouts and general managers from all over the CFL. So they have to be able to deal with that stress and then be able to perform at a high level.”

Collinson added that players do their best when they’re calm and relaxed. Roy emulated that thought, saying he will be himself if he gets the opportunity to have interviews there.

“I think that the general managers and the coaches are going to appreciate my personality,” Roy said.

He also added that it’s hard to stand out in the Combine because of the high level of talent and the fact that the prospects don’t know each other very well. So, Roy will use his unique position as quarterback to “speak up and show [his] leadership skills.” 

Both Roy and Murphy are glad to have each other there.

“It’s great to have someone out there that you know and Jeremy is an awesome player,” said Roy. “Hopefully we can get some reps together, and I can help him show off his skills at the same time.”

“We already have this connection, this timing,” added Murphy, who said he’s glad to have his quarterback there.

The pair will leave on March 21 for Edmonton. They both look forward to the Combine and aren’t nervous yet.

“I’m excited to compete with the best in the country,” said Roy.


The Concordia Stingers’ women’s hockey team shuts out the Carleton Ravens 6-0

Six goals by six different Stingers end the regular season on a high note

The Concordia Stingers’ women’s hockey team made the most of power plays and dominated the Carleton Ravens 6-0 at the Ed Meagher Arena during their last game of the regular season on Feb. 17.

It was the last regular season game for four Stingers seniors. Defender and captain Olivia Hale, forwards Alexandra Boulanger and Rosalie Bégin-Cyr, as well as goaltender Alice Philbert were honoured after the game alongside their families.

“They are four really important members of this team, we love them and I’m just glad we got a good win to honour their amazing careers,” said Stingers defender Alexandra-Anne Boyer.

Boyer helped the Stingers take the lead in the first period on the power play before Stingers’ forward Chloé Gendreau doubled the lead.

At the start of the second period, Concordia forward Justine Yelle beat the Ravens’ defence while shorthanded and extended the lead to 3-0. Stingers forward Caroline Moquin-Joubert capitalized later on their powerplay.

The Stingers continued to excel in power plays in the final frame, with forwards Megan Bureau-Gagnon and Jessymaude Drapeau making the final score 6-0.

The team was happy to get a big victory for the four seniors.

“I think we were just making sure we got that shut out for [Phibert] at the end of the day,” said Hale.

Stingers’ head coach Julie Chu noted that, with all the excitement surrounding the game, their biggest challenge was to stay focused and eliminate distractions.

Nonetheless, Chu praised her team’s dominance on the power play, their ability to build confidence and to make adjustments where needed in between periods.

“I was really happy with the full effort,” said Chu. “Obviously, what better way to honour our graduating players than with a win.”

With the regular season over, the Stingers will face the Bishop’s Gaiters on Feb. 23 at the Ed Meagher Arena for the first game of the best-of-three series.

“We told our team to enjoy this, enjoy what they’ve accomplished, and enjoy celebrating as a team,” said Chu. “But, when we wake up tomorrow, our focus shifts to preparing and doing everything we can physically and mentally to get ready.”

She acknowledged that there will be challenges ahead as they prepare to face the Gaiters.

“We worked all year for this,” said Boyer. “We’re going to come ready and Thursday is going to be a great game.”


LGBTQ+ sports leagues exist and are here to stay

Volley Boréal is one of the many LGBTQ+ leagues aiming to provide a discrimination-free space

Every Monday, the players at Volley Boréal gather at Collège de Maisonneuve for their weekly game night, a tradition that has been alive since its foundation in 2004.

Volley Boréal is a not-for-profit mixed-gender LGBTQ+ volleyball club. It was created following the fusion of two gay volleyball clubs that existed in the ’80s and served different purposes: competition and socialization. It encompasses 12 recreational teams and 12 semi-competitive teams with a total of around 200 members.

“A lot of players have a need to come socialize in a safe place, to play without any fear of discrimination, and to be themselves,” said Karl Côté, president of Volley Boréal.

Côté joined the league in 2008 when he was looking to connect with the LGBTQ+ community while staying physically active. He found the league through a friend — like most players do — and was immediately welcomed, even though he had never played volleyball before.

Warm welcomes and inclusivity are what Volley Boréal thrives on, according to Côté. Their website emphasizes that “any form of discrimination based on sex, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation is prohibited.”

Volley Boréal is an extremely diverse club, which is immediately noticeable during their weekly games.

“We meet people of all types of backgrounds,” said Mia Beaudoin-Dion, a transwoman who has played with them for two years now. “It isn’t reserved at all to queer people, we have a lot of heterosexual people, allies, that join us.”

When Beaudoin-Dion joined the league, she had just started her transition.

“I was looking for safe spaces in my life that would accept me for who I was,” she said. “I felt no judgment from the other players, unlike with family and friends, where it was more difficult. The volleyball club made me feel better because it wasn’t a big deal. My transition was just accepted and normalized.”

Jean Gilbert, another member, has been with the club for 16 years, as long as he’s been in Montréal. He saw the recreational league grow from six to 12 teams and he witnessed more women starting to participate. It was important for him to be a part of an LGBTQ+ group, but as a 66-year-old man working from home, there was more to it.

“I don’t necessarily see a lot of people,” he said. “By coming here, I can meet people, I’ve made friends. It’s important for me to have a space that can break my isolation and make a change from being at home.”

The need to socialize is also the main reason Sébastien Shah, now vice-president of Volley Boréal, first joined as a member back in 2019.

Even though Shah didn’t join the team with no intention to find a partner, he ended up meeting his current boyfriend of three years. Since then, he’s had the club engraved in his heart and that’s why he decided to join the board of directors: to give back to them like they had given to him. It isn’t even conceivable for him to leave the club.

“I have four classes at university, I’m preparing for internships, my head is barely above the water and everyone around tells me to cut somewhere, to cut in volleyball,” Shah said.

But for him, the volleyball club is a way to decompress from his busy life and to cope with mental health. Being on the board of directors might be demanding for Shah, but it’s fun and gratifying. It gives him his energy for the week, and he counts the days before each Monday.

Shah emulates the feeling of most — if not all — of Volley Boréal’s players. There is an unequivocal and contagious joie de vivre in the gym when they play. Volley Boréal is the proof that inclusivity and sports make for a match made in heaven.


Concordia Stingers’ men’s hockey team dominates Ottawa Gee-Gees 4-1

Stingers’ forward Maxim Trépanier’s hat trick helps Concordia get an important win for the upcoming playoffs

Last Friday night, the Concordia Stingers’ men’s hockey team stunned the Ottawa Gee-Gees by scoring four unanswered goals in the third period at the Ed Meagher Arena, thereby securing the second spot in the OUA East.

The Stingers and the Gee-Gees followed each other closely during the first period. The tension was high, but neither team could capitalize on their respective power plays. The first period ended with 11 unsuccessful shots for Concordia and eight for Ottawa.

Only in the second period was Gee-Gees’ forward Anthony Poulin able to score the first goal of the game against Stingers’ goaltender Jonathan Lemieux. Concordia, however, still couldn’t get on the board by the end of the period, with a total of 26 shots over 40 minutes.

The Stingers made crucial changes to their gameplay in the third period, allowing them to take the lead over the Gee-Gees.

“I told the guys to be honest with their performance and to step up their game and they did it,” said Stingers’ head coach Marc-André Elément. “We looked at some videos and the guys were playing on the outside, they weren’t staying in front of the goaltender. In the third period we went in there and that’s how we scored some goals.”

And score goals, they did.

Four minutes into the third period, Stingers’ forward Maxim Trépanier scored a first goal and tied the game after receiving a pass from Stinger’s defender Simon Lavigne and sliding it past Gee-Gees’ goaltender Christian Sbaraglia. He scored again three minutes later, giving Concordia the lead. This time centre Tyler Hylland and defender Sean Larochelle got the assists.

A few minutes later, Stingers’ centre and captain Phélix Martineau scored and furthered Concordia’s lead with help from Stingers’ right-winger Charles Tremblay and left-winger Isiah Campbell.

Two minutes before the end of the game, Trépanier received valuable passes from Lemieux and Stingers’ defender Kyle Havlena and took one final shot at an empty Gee-Gees’ net, setting the final mark of 4-1. It marked Trépanier’s second hat trick in two consecutive games and Lemieux’s second assist as a goaltender.

“It’s teamwork, it’s my job to start the game and the guys take care of the rest,” said Lemieux. “In an empty net situation, we have more chances to [score], but to do it for the hat trick of a teammate is really fun.”

Trépanier mentioned that the positive attitude in the locker room during the second intermission helped the team get the win.

“We knew after the first two periods that we weren’t playing our best game, but I think that we really stepped it up in the third period,” said Lemieux.

The goaltender also added that his teammates made his job much easier, allowing him to face only six shots in the last period.  

Despite the big win, the team remains focused on the important games ahead.

“We still have work to do this week for the playoffs, but we are getting close to where we want [our performance] to be,” said Trépanier.

Friday’s win guaranteed a first-round playoff bye for the Stingers, and their Saturday 3-2 victory against the Carleton Ravens marked their fifth consecutive win.

The Stingers’ last regular season game will be disputed at home on Feb. 10 against the Queen’s Gaels.


Pressure, academia and competition: why people quit organized sports

Concordia students share their experiences in organized sports

As a four-year-old kid in the UK in 2007, Kim Maurer, a current English Literature student at Concordia, was first drawn to sports when she wanted to follow in her older brother’s footsteps.

She enrolled in a wide array of sports like field hockey and football, but her true loves were dance, swimming and rounders (an English sport that resembles baseball). At 14, however, she would stop all those sports, joining an ever-growing trend of kids leaving organized sports in their teens.

“I was definitely a really happy kid because of how many sports I played. But I think, as you get older, it begins to negatively affect you,” said Maurer, recalling the pressure of competition she felt going into secondary school.

“I was always pushed academically,” she added. “So, if I was good at school, I had to be good at sports, I had to be good at music, I had to be good at every single thing I dipped my toes into.”

Sports that once served Maurer as a distraction from school were soon overpowered by academic pressure.

“When I was doing sports, I was there physically, but not mentally, because I’d be focusing on what I have tomorrow, what kind of exams, what do I have to prepare for. It wasn’t fun anymore,” she said.

Kim Maurer holds sports awards she won when she was younger. Catherine Reynolds/ The Concordian

But Maurer’s not alone. More often than not, it’s the lack of fun in organized sports that makes kids quit.

“The stakes are much higher and people compare you to everyone else,” continued Maurer. “That’s one of the reasons why I quit [dance], it became too toxic.” 

The decision to quit swimming and rounders — one of Maurer’s favourite sports — was even harder.

Charlotte Weissler, a journalism student at Concordia, recounts a similar story. She, too, came from a sports-oriented family and started gymnastics at four years old in France. She recalled having a love/hate relationship with the sport.

“It was a really hard sport, it hurt physically, you fall a lot, and I got injured a lot,” she said, also mentioning the mental challenges that came with putting a lot of effort into the sport. Nonetheless, she felt at home in the gym.

At seven, Weissler began competing.

“I really liked it because I was better when I was young, I was winning all my competitions and I enjoyed it obviously. But it was also stressful, and I hated that,” she said.

Going to high school at 16 changed everything for Weissler, and the pressure to have good grades was an added source of stress.

“I didn’t think I could handle four training sessions a week and do my assignments. It just wasn’t possible,” she said. She was stuck in an all-or-nothing situation and her gym wouldn’t accommodate for fewer than four sessions per week.

However, some friends that Weissler met while doing gymnastics are now completing master’s degrees, all while keeping up with gymnastics. She believes the difference between her and them is passion.

“It was [a hard decision], but also, after 12 years, all the pressure became so strong that at one point I thought I wasn’t passionate enough to want that pressure anymore,” Weissler said.

Both Maurer and Weissler noted that many of their peers quit sports at the same time as them.

But juggling academia and sports is possible. Concordia Stingers’ Alice Philbert, goaltender for the women’s hockey team for six years, shows just that.

She started goaltending at 13 in the RSEQ — after playing defence for five years — and has dedicated her life to playing hockey and studying since then.

“I started my graduate diploma in business administration to continue playing hockey [with the Stingers],” she said. “If it wasn’t for hockey, I wouldn’t have undertaken it.”

Philbert’s coaches at Dawson and Concordia taught her valuable lessons through sports, like putting her team first and that everything is earned.

“When I go to the arena, I know I’m going to have fun,” she said. “It’s not stressful and I know people are there to help me.”

And that’s what sports should be for young people: a stress-free environment where they can have fun and make new friends.


Hiking is a women’s sport

Hikers are taking it upon themselves to create representation for women in the sport

Hiking the 4,265-kilometer-long Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is no easy feat, but for Christel Bourque, a Montreal-based hiker, photographer, and visual artist, it was how she got into hiking in 2019. Four years later, she recalls how her first experience on the famous through-hiking trail made her realize women in the sport are underrepresented.

“The first thing I realized is that there are not a lot of women who do the PCT alone,” Bourque said.

To prepare for the hike, Bourque, whose experience was limited to Mont-Saint-Hilaire, turned to YouTube for information on the PCT. This is when she noticed a lack of French-Canadian hiking content tailored for women.

Due to heavy snowfall conditions (and a personal emergency that arose later), Bourque had to quit her hike after having covered roughly 1,600 kilometres of the PCT in three months. Nonetheless, she returned to the PCT in 2022, documenting her experience on her YouTube channel La Petite Marcheuse, thereby filling a void for underrepresented Quebec women in hiking.

Just 1,000 kilometres shy of the end, Bourque’s second attempt also ended abruptly due to complications associated with an insect bite that forced her to return to Canada. 

A third attempt at the PCT lingers in her mind, as she continues hiking in Quebec.

Bourque noted that compared to shorter Quebec trails, the long-distance PCT comes with extra hardships, especially for women.

For one, menstrual pain doesn’t magically go away on hikes and tampons add weight to the backpack.

“I used to be the DivaCup girl, but that was impossible,” Bourque said. “I went back to tampons in 2019 and carried the used ones in those opaque dog waste bags.”

For her second attempt, the hiker took the birth control pill to handle her menstrual cycle — but not without it taking a toll on her body.

Another prevalent challenge for women hikers is hitchhiking to go to faraway towns to resupply, which Bourque did alongside other women.

“If one of us didn’t like the vibe of the person offering us a ride, it was an immediate no,” said Bourque. “We were two women and we didn’t want to get in danger.” She recalled the times when men insisted on giving them a ride or proposed shady exchanges of services. 

Nonetheless, hiking is one of the sports in which discrepancies in performance between men and women are negligible.

“More and more evidence has come out that women’s bodies are better equipped for endurance activities,” said Liz Thomas, hiker and co-founder of Treeline Review, a company that specializes in reviewing women’s outdoor gear. The performance gap between the sexes in ultra-endurance activities (defined as lasting more than six hours) is merely four per cent.

Thomas, whose passion for hiking developed through her alma mater’s outdoor club, achieved the Triple Crown of Hiking after completing the PCT, the Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. She’s been dubbed the “Queen of Urban Hiking,” a title first given by Outside Magazine.

As a tip for beginner hikers, Thomas suggests hiking with friends as it allows for more time to slow down and catch up. It also makes it harder to quit.

“Go on trails in town, you don’t have to go somewhere really remote. Just get out there and walk,” she said.

Conveniently, Montreal might just be the place to do so. “I would love to urban-hike Montreal,” beamed Thomas.

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