Work-life balance: York athlete edition

Written by Deea Deb

Looking to get involved with or learn more about York’s varsity teams? You’ve come to the right place. 

We wanted to give you a sneak peek into a varsity athlete’s life at York, so we caught up with Michelle Lee, a final-year Space Engineering student who has been part of York’s Varsity Women's Field Hockey team since May 2019.  

Lee has been actively involved in sports since high school.  

What made you get involved in sports at York?

 “Sports were always my favourite thing to do, and when you are granted an opportunity to play at a higher level, you take it,” says Lee.  

“My favourite thing about team sports is the community you build. Your teammates become your second family. It really is just a big group of friends consistently getting together to play a game you all enjoy.” 

How has being a part of a team helped you grow as a person?

“I’m always surrounded by the support of people who care about me,” says Lee.  

“I developed teamwork and communication skills when working with such a large group of people. I get to learn from my teammates individually and collectively, and it lets me help elevate others when possible.” 

How is your university varsity experience different compared to high school athletics?

“University sports are far more intense and competitive than high school sports. Multiple training sessions every day and sometimes travelling to play against other teams takes energy and time,” says Lee. 

“However, it is also more enjoyable. Every aspect of the game is raised, from the quality of play, the strategy, the stakes and everything in between. As a competitive person, I find this game so much more fun,” they add. 

This sounds like a lot of time management! 

How do you balance sports and staying healthy with coursework, a job, volunteering and everything else?

“In my first year, I invested all of my time into sports and barely studied, which ended up affecting my grades,” says Lee. “I had to maintain specific grades to stay on the team, which meant I needed to pay more attention to my academics.” 

After one too many all-nighters in a row, Lee re-evaluated her routine and found a more sustainable balance.  

“I scheduled work and volunteering activities better, took breaks and tried to be consistent with study hours,” they say. “I found that scheduling breaks allowed me to work faster.”

Lee also scheduled her meals and went to bed on time regardless of the work left.  

 “I realized I am the most productive in the morning, so I did schoolwork in the early mornings instead of late into the night,” they add.  

Speaking of cocurricular activities, Lee also volunteers as a mentor with the Providing Athletes with Winning Strategies (PAWS) Program.  

The PAWS Program supports athletes in their academics, ensures they are eligible for the next season and helps to create a greater sense of community beyond the team. Mentors offer resources and connect with their mentees to set goals. 

How has PAWS helped you grow?

“PAWS helped me grow a greater sense of community, and I met a bunch of really interesting people that I would have never met if it wasn't for the program,” says Lee.  

“It introduced me to so many different walks of life, and seeing people you support succeed and grow is such a fulfilling moment.” 

Lee’s pro tips for students interested in joining varsity athletics at York

  1. Know your deadlines and find a schedule that works for you. 
  2. Lean into everything that your team, your coaches, PAWS and sports council have to offer.  
  3. Attend events, be present and reach out if you need help. 
  4. The varsity gym at Tait McKenzie is amazing. It’s super clean, less crowded and has a super comfortable couch I love to lie on while waiting for my team! 
  5. Most importantly, enjoy yourself and take part in what matters to you.  

To learn more about York athletics, visit