BY ISABELLA KRZYKALA AND HAILEY MONTGOMERY
The Toronto Blue Jays honoured Sheridan College Athletic Therapy students Kevin Bryant and Justine Branco, at the Rogers Centre, on Sept. 12 during a pre-game ceremony. Both Bryant and Branco were recognized for their academic excellence and the dedication they show toward the program.
Branco was awarded the Dr. Ron Taylor award, given each year to a student who demonstrates high academic achievement, and a commitment to extracurricular activities. “This is a huge honour, there is a lot of history behind this award,” Branco said. “Being named after a former baseball player is amazing, it’s such a tradition of excellence of people that have won it.”
Bryant was the recipient of the Toronto Blue Jays scholarship. This scholarship is given to a third-year student who is personally selected by the Blue Jays medical staff. The recipient of the scholarship is given the opportunity to work side-by-side with training staff and players during all home games.
Bryant recalled his excitement as he got the call from Blue Jays assistant head athletic trainer, Mike Frostad. “I was actually in the shower when the Blue Jays had called,” Bryant said. “I was just relieved that it was finally over, and that I had the answer I wanted. I’ll admit I was a little watery-eyed about joining the Blue Jays.”
Bryant said that his season with the Blue Jays players and staff gave him unique hands-on experience he may not have received elsewhere.
“It has been unbelievable, both from an athletic therapy aspect but also just being a fan of the game,” Bryant said. “Working with George and Mike Frostad and learning from professionals at the highest level in baseball has been amazing and I have been learning a lot.”
Before the first pitch, Blue Jays head athletic trainer George Poulis, who has been with the Jays for over 20 years, recognized Bryant’s dedication during his time with the team. “He is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He is in the trenches with us the whole season,” Poulis said. “He just feels comfortable, just like all the other Sheridan students.”
For the past 27 years, Sheridan College’s Bachelor of Applied Health and Science program has shared a strong relationship with the Toronto Blue Jays. The four-year Athletic Therapy degree program develops and provides students with skills that allows them to work with even the most elite athletes.
“The relationship has continued for so long because of the quality of the program and the quality of the student athletic therapists that come in,” Poulis said. “These students have good values, they have good work ethic and a passion for taking their skills to the next level.”
Sheridan Athletic Therapy professor, Paul Brisebois, feels that the commitment of both Sheridan College and the Toronto Blue Jays is what has kept the relationship between the two strong for nearly three decades.
“It has been 27 years, so it creates a good relationship, but it does take both parties to do their share,” Brisebois said. “George and the training staff, as well as the Sheridan College kids. I think it’s a joint commitment because people do what they are supposed to do.”
Brisebois was the recipient of the Blue Jays Scholarship in 2003, allowing him some insight on being a student thrown into a professional sports environment.
“I think the hardest thing as an intern is just being that low man on the totem pole,” Brisbeois said. “Some of the tasks are not the most glamorous, but they allow the whole staff to persevere and work better together.”
Bryant’s tasks ranged from making ice packs to driving star athletes from clubhouse to clubhouse.
“I had to pick up David Ortiz from the other team’s clubhouse and drive him over to our clubhouse to get checked out by our doctors,” Bryant said. “Being able to ride with him in a golf cart and making a little bit of chit-chat was really cool. The guy’s a living legend right now.”
Brisebois also acknowledged the unique pressure of working in a professional sports environment.
“They are dealing with the highest calibre of athletes versus maybe just a weekend warrior who works nine-to-five Monday-to-Friday and plays hockey on Saturdays,” said Brisebois. “It’s a different competition level, different injuries.”
By spending this season with the Blue Jays, Bryant has learned many skills that only come from working side-by-side with professional athletes.
“I have definitely learned a lot. A lot of new techniques, a lot of manual skills that I wish I had known last year, that I could have applied to the team that I was with,” said Bryant. “Even just from learning how to manage different personalities, ‘cause there are so many different personalities on this team. You can’t treat everybody the same way.”
Bryant is currently in his final year of the Athletic Therapy program at Sheridan College and has started to think about his life after graduation and the decisions that lie ahead.
“What scares me is I am not exactly sure what avenue to take with athletic therapy. I always saw myself working in a clinic, but now thanks to working with the Blue Jays, a part of me wants to work for a team,” Bryant said. “Overall, I am just looking forward to graduation and finally moving on with my life from school.”