Blanke’s game plan
July 25 2011
As a centre for the Swift Current Broncos, Andrew Blanke knows firsthand how a big play in the first period can make all the difference in the game's final score. It should come as no surprise, then, that he's acting now to prepare for his future -- by taking courses through Athabasca University.
Blanke is one of 11 Broncos who are studying with AU while playing for the Western Hockey League (WHL), thanks in part to a 2009 agreement between the WHL and AU.
"I had always thought I would have to fully commit to either hockey or school and make a choice [between the two]," says the 19-year-old from Swift Current who is in his third season with his home team. "But with online learning, I can do both at the same time."
Courses in microeconomics, financial accounting and calculus match his strengths in math and science. In addition to earning an A average, he's also honing his self-motivation, self-discipline and time- and money-management skills, all of which are important to his success both on and off the ice.
Growing up following the Broncos and being a big fan -- "they were my heroes" -- he's relishing being a part of his hometown team, and he acknowledges that hockey is and must be his first priority right now.
"When you're playing at our calibre, you have to put hockey first or you won't be on the team," he says. While he's doing all he can to take his hockey career as far as it will go, with the ultimate goal to play in the NHL, he knows "you always need to have a backup plan. By taking courses now, I'll be able to pick up school when I want to."
Blending play and school can require deft stickhandling. With three to four hours of practice every day, travel, games and community events, "there are times when it's really busy and you have to balance everything; you have to prioritize." Having teammates with similar life goals has helped.
While online learning was new to him, Blanke quickly realized that not having to squeeze his time into a pre-scheduled on-campus class offered great flexibility. "Sometimes it is really challenging to teach yourself, and the biggest thing is that you have to be motivated," he admits. "It's easy to say ‘I'll do it later' because no one is pushing you. So there's a parallel between the discipline needed to be good in hockey and to be good in school."
Making the Broncos lineup "was a sweet thing for me and my family," Blanke says, and he fully intends to make the most of the opportunity -- and that includes his AU studies, which are paid for by the WHL.
"In 10 to 12 years when I have my degree or I'm playing pro hockey, I'll be able to look back and realize how much... it paid off, how important it was."