Graduating Huskies athlete spearheaded academic assistance off the field
In the case of Huskies women’s soccer player Farrah Sheikh, university’s loss has been George Brown College’s gain.
Four years ago, Sheikh moved to Toronto from Dubai. When Ryerson and the University of Toronto didn’t recognize her two years at the American University of Sharjah, she applied and was accepted to George Brown’s mechanical engineering technology (MET) program.
She was here all of two weeks before joining the women’s soccer program. Beyond being an early place to immerse herself and build friendships, the team allowed Sheikh an avenue for getting back into the game.
While playing in the Dubai Women’s Football Association, Sheikh suffered a torn meniscus in her kicking leg after an errant tackle from behind. George Brown’s athletic therapy services made for a kind of rehab program.
“My first year on the team was me being on the bench and getting about five minutes of playing time, just because I was still trying to get myself back into the game,” said Sheikh.
Four years later, Sheikh is wrapping up a project management postgraduate certificate after having completed her MET advanced diploma. On the field, the Huskies veteran still feels some injury-related frustration. But looking at the big picture, she is an exemplar of balancing the demands placed upon collegiate athletes.
According to Sheikh, the secret is time management and a mindset of commitment.
“You have to work at 100 per cent,” Sheikh said of what’s needed from varsity athletes. “There’s no such thing as ‘Oh, I can’t make it to practice because I have an assignment, or I have a test tomorrow morning.’ We all have tests, we all have assignments, we all have class at 8 a.m.”
That standard might sound exacting, if not for the fact that Sheikh is the first one looking to help. According to manager of athletics and recreation Melanie Gerin-Lajoie, Sheikh approached her at the beginning of the season looking for an opportunity to help her fellow athletes.
Out of those discussions came an athletics tutor position in which Sheikh has gone above and beyond.
“She’s got her set schedule, but then she also makes outside appointments to meet with them individually if they need extra support,” said Gerin-Lajoie. “She’s made herself a phone call away from anyone who needs it.”
The Dubai native has also joined Peerconnect to assist with their athletics outreach.
Sheikh’s work over the years has not gone unnoticed. Athletics and recreation coordinator Deanna Oliver described her as completely committed to the program, and someone who has “created a culture” of dedication. And for Huskies teammate Francesca Girardo, Sheikh has been a rock no matter the setting.
“She always says on the field and even when she’s helping me study, ‘Frankie, relax, breathe, you’re fine, you’re not going to mess up,'” said Girardo. “I think people look up to her and go to her when they need that calming figure, that leader on the field and that leader just in general.”