Oyinko Akinola knows all about the trials and tribulations of being a student athlete.
A captain of the Bison track and field team, Akinola was forced to red shirt last season due to academic ineligibility. But the third-year high jumper managed to get his grades back up and was eligible to run again this year.
Two years ago, Akinola, studying political science at the University of Manitoba, was struggling in a few courses. He retook them in the summer, but was unable to get the grades necessary to compete, relegating him to the bench.
“I was training, watching my teammates compete, I did travel to a few meets but it wasn’t really the same. It was like you’re there, but you’re really not with the team,” the 22-year-old said.
It was a bit of a wakeup call for the graduate of Dakota Collegiate, who has been competing in track and field for seven years .
“It kind of put things into perspective, you got to realize you’re still at school before you’re an athlete” Akinola said. “It’s really fun being on the team and stuff like that but you need to get things done outside of the track to be able to compete on the track.”
Akinola, a native of Lagos, Nigeria, worked with an academic advisor to get his grades up, and it paid off. The time off from the team also helped him schedule his time better.
“Obviously I had a lot more time to study because I wasn’t travelling a lot and have the same responsibilities as my teammates did,” he said. “Time management and stuff like that, you realize those are things you need to do. You need to be able to set a schedule for yourself and do what you need to do.”
Akinola said it was a combination of things that led to the dip in academic performance, including bad study habits, poor time management, and the crutch of many students – procrastination. Akinola said success on the track does not always translate to success in the classroom.
“That’s the thing with athletes we assume ’cause we’re good at what we do, our main focus is athletics and we’re good at that, that just translates to other things in their lives and sometimes it really doesn’t,” he said.
“You have to hone your skills in every aspect of your life.”
Even with the U of M hosting the Canada West Track and Field Championships this spring, Akinola said it was finishing his degree that motivated him to do well.
“I obviously need to get my degree, that was more motivation than the Canada West championships,” he said. “It’s great being on the team, I missed being on the team but I had to realize you’re going to make a living off your degree and that’s what you need to get.”
With his success in the classroom, Akinola is not taking track any less seriously.
“I’m in the weight room every day, it’s just I know how to balance it better now,” he said.
Being a captain, a role Akinola takes very seriously, he said he is looking forward to ushering in the next generation of Bison track stars.
“It’s just really good to be able because I’m going to be out of here in the next couple years, to be able to watch these kids grow and mature,” he said.
Akinola offered up some advice to the young faces on the Bison team, and any student athlete in general.
“You still got to do your school, sports are going to be there,” he said.
“I’m on a scholarship so if you don’t do school, you don’t get your money. There are certain things that come into play and you need to be able to know what you need to do and make sure you get it done. If you need help, go get help, don’t be ashamed, just go get help – it’s your life.”