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Leo MacPherson (right), director of athletics and recreational services at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., took some time to speak to Cletus Doucet (left) and Sandy MacLean prior to a Northern New Brunswick Xaverian Gathering at Dannys Inn and Conference Centre. Doucet and MacLean helped organize the event that attracted St. F X alumni from throughout North East New Brunswick, while MacPherson was the evening's guest speaker.

The director of athletics and recreational services at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. says it is important for student athletes getting set to make the jump from high school to university to develop their time management skills.

Leo MacPherson was at Dannys Inn and Conference Centre on April 15 to speak at the Northern New Brunswick Xaverian Gathering. The annual event attracted St. F X alumni from as far away as Campbellton, along with a few students who plan to attend the university next year.

"The number one skill coming into university that I've experienced personally and I see now as the director of athletics, is time management," said MacPherson in an interview with the Northern Light. "It is critical for our student athletes to have great time management skills. Their varsity commitment is the equivalent to having a part time job and they still have to find the time to focus on their studies. I recommend to each of them, in September and October of your first year to get to every class."

MacPherson said developing those strong habits early on will go a long way to making a student athlete successful at the university level.

"If they develop those strong habits their first year, once they come back for their sophomore year and beyond, they've developed a work ethic, time management skills, how to tackle a term paper and how to prep for an exam," he said. "All those things will guide them through their four years."

MacPherson played basketball at St. F X in the 1980's and said there are plenty of adjustments to be made for all students.

"Just the life skills of living on your own," he explained. "You are doing your own laundry for the first time, sometimes you are prepping your own meals, nobody is getting you out of bed to go to class. Those are all the self discipline things that you have to develop. Only part of your education comes inside the classroom, the other part of it comes outside the classroom and how you handle these things as an adult."

Then there is the added pressure of fitting in at a new school, and for a student athlete becoming part of a new team.

"Often times they may have been some of the bigger and more talented players at the high school level," he said. "Then you get to the university level and you find out that they are all big and they are all talented and you are a small fish in a much larger pond. That is a big adjustment for a number of student athetles."

That also means adjusting to a new role.

"Not only to understand what your role is on the team, given you are in your first year, but also to accept that role," explained MacPherson. "It is tough. I can speak from personal experience, averaging 27 points a game playing high school basketball to four points a game my first year of university. If you are a competitor - you want to play, and you have to understand you are now with a bunch of extremely talented players. Your time will come, just don't give up and continue to work hard."

MacPherson was quick to point out that anyone who thinks being a student athlete means they don't have to work hard on their studies will be in for a big surprise.

"There is a strong mix of students that are there for academics first and then athletics second," he said. "You get a small percentage that are there for the wrong reasons, but they'll quickly find out that they have to adjust or they won't be there very long."

That means taking your books on the road too.

"There is a lot of windshield time traveling," said MacPherson. "It is important to turn that down time, which is really what bus travel is, into up time which will benefit you academically. That is big."

MacPherson also paid a visit to Bathurst High School last Thursday to talk to students. He said, for the most part, student athletes at St. F X are recruited through the sports head coach, although there are always exceptions.

"It comes down to the network of contacts (the coach has)," he said. "Often prospective student athletes can let the coach know that they are interested in attending our institution. We have an application, on line, they can fill it out and the coach gets it. There are a number of diamonds in the rough out there that you may not have heard about, or you may not have had a chance to see."

"Of course, there are walk on opportunities too," he concluded. "On occasion you get a real surprise that walks on to campus and makes the team with tremendous work ethic, talent above what you'd expect and an understanding of what their role is on that team."

*Article on behalf of The Northern Light-by Peter Assaff

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