As the curtain draws to a close on the first season of the newly renamed Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold athletics program, a wave of athletes’ final university sports season will forever be cemented in history.
As graduating athletes put on the blue and gold for a final time, they depart university athletics as a class having endured the most obstacles in recent memory.
Losing nearly two years of university sports competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these athletes are among the most resilient individuals to come out of the TMU athletics program.
While their time at TMU has been formative, these athletes have reached the end of the line for university sports. As they depart, they’re left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the sports they’ve dedicated their lives to.
For TMU men’s basketball forward Nick Hamilton, the pandemic was just another bump in the road on an unlikely university sports career for the Hamilton native. Basketball has been a passion of Hamilton’s since a young age and no sport has ever come close to rivaling his dedication to it. Despite Hamilton’s immense devotion to the sport, his journey to becoming captain of the TMU Bold men’s basketball team is one that could be considered something straight out of a movie.
Hamilton believed his time playing his beloved sport had reached the finish line as his high school graduation rolled around. With little interest from post-secondary schools to further his basketball career, Hamilton opted to return to high school for a victory lap. And once that ended, he truly thought his career was over.
“For a while I loved basketball and it didn’t love me back,” said Hamilton.
The extra year allowed Hamilton to tack on some weight and height and ultimately led him to tryout at Kerr Hall for the university's basketball team.
Hamilton impressed during the tryout, securing himself a spot as a practice player on the team as a walk-on. As it did his entire career, Hamilton’s dedication to his craft never wavered but rather only strengthened. Continuously believing in his abilities and looking at the game from a coaches perspective allowed him to graduate into the rotation during the 2021-22 season.
When reflecting on his fondest memory from his career, the emotions endured during his first career start in Ottawa on Feb. 25, 2022 certainly come away on top. His story came full circle when he laced them up and hit the court as a TMU starter that night.
“When I first came here and was sitting on the bench my first year, I really thought I don’t know if I’ll ever get in a game at this place” said Hamilton.
Not only did Hamilton continuously defy the odds during his career, his passion for the sport only grew during the pandemic.
“[The time away was] so incredibly valuable…because you step away from it and then you realize how much you do like it when it comes back,” said Hamilton. “When you play it every single day you can take it for granted”
The pandemic brought Hamilton closer to his teammates—whom he now considers his brothers for life—and changed the way he viewed the game. He also came to the realization that the significance of sports is very minimal after a massive global event such as a pandemic. Given the state of the outside world, he valued wins and losses less, but the social aspect of sport a lot more.
This realization helped him become more relaxed on the court, improving his game and making his final two years at TMU some of the best basketball he’s played in his career. In fact, head coach David DeAveiro said Hamilton was a player the team couldn’t succeed without when they defeated the eventual 2023 national champions, the Carleton Ravens, back in January.
Hamilton acknowledges his strong work ethic and departs with his head held high, possessing lots of gratitude for basketball while reflecting on his Hollywood-like athletics career.
“I don’t know if I can put it into words, it just means a lot,” said Hamilton. “It gives you something to wake up to in the morning.”
The beauty of sports is that everyone’s journey is different, everyone faces a different set of challenges and everyone learns valuable lessons that can be applied to life. Take women’s volleyball star Julie Moore, who took a unique path on her way to the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), as an example.
Since her early days growing up in Halifax, volleyball was always a topic of conversation within the Moore family. With Moore’s mother, Karen, playing the sport at the Olympic level, the volleyball genes ran in the family.
Moore committed to the sport full time in Grade 11, leading her to a spot on the women’s volleyball team at Dalhousie University. During her four years at Dalhousie, the program won four consecutive Atlantic University Sports championships, with Moore herself being named to multiple all conference teams and a two-time All-Canadian.
But despite all her success in her career, Moore departs university sports with an appreciation for more than just the accolades. “You kind of realize when you’re done that awards and banners are not everything,” she said.
After transferring to TMU for her final year of eligibility, Moore’s experience playing for the Bold is something she’ll always remember. From the energy filling the MAC on opening night of the season to the five-set thrilling win over McMaster on senior night, these are moments in her career that will never leave her memory.
Not only will Moore be forever grateful for the moments she shared on the court, she says the friendships and bonds she’s created along the way will be among things she misses the most about her U Sports career. The long road trips, team meals and just simple conversations about life with her teammates before and after games led to the friendships that will last Moore a lifetime.
“That’s the tough part of it all ending, you won’t be seeing those people every single day at practice,” she said.
Despite reaching the end of the line in her university career, Moore remains undecided on what her future in the sport holds. She’s signed with an agent and will either continue her volleyball career overseas professionally in Europe or join Team Canada for the Next Gen beach program, which tours around the world taking on various countries.
With it all being said and done, Moore departs university athletics wanting every incoming athlete to enjoy each moment and take it all in, saying that the experience “[is] gonna go by really fast.”
While Moore only spent one season as a member of the Bold, her final season will always be a memorable one.
“TMU is just a whole different school, the volleyball culture is just so different,” said Moore. “I was like ‘wow this is a whole new world for me.’”
While many in TMU’s upcoming class of graduating students will walk across the stage at convocation for the first time, some—like men’s soccer goalie Ali Ghazanfari—are saying goodbye to the university for a second time.
Ghazanfari has spent the last seven years of his life walking TMU’s campus and calling the confines of Dundas and Church Street home.
Not only has he devoted an immense amount of time to his education, completing his masters in business administration after graduating from the school’s civil engineering program in 2020, Ghazanfari has also dedicated a good portion of his free time to being a focal leader on the men’s soccer team.
Ghazanfari admitted the student-athlete life has been challenging throughout the years but it is one that has contributed positively to his self-development. “As an athlete, I got smarter in taking care of my body,” said Ghazanfari. “I endured a lot of injuries in my first couple years and attributed those injuries to a lack of knowledge about strength and conditioning.”
Ghazanfari plans on continuing his playing career in a semi-professional league and said the lessons he learned at TMU will play a crucial role in keeping him healthy and on the playing field.
Following the completion of his undergraduate degree, Ghazanfari was uncertain about his future in soccer. He admits his focus shifted from being a student-athlete to transitioning into his career. However, Ghazanfari ultimately opted to return to TMU to complete his masters degree after a desire to further his education. That decision resulted in him reaching the biggest stage in U Sports in his final year: nationals.
Ghazanfari said the moment felt extra sweet after the program had lost a handful of consecutive games with a trip to nationals on the line in previous years.
“To go to nationals in my last ever shot at it, it was crazy,” said Ghazanfari. “It’s almost like if the script was written for me”
While competing at nationals was a dream come true, it also marked the end of Ghazanfari’s university sports career. He recalled a magnitude of emotions going through his head as he walked off the pitch for the last time. Spending seven years with the program made the moment all the more difficult. Ghazanfari specifically admitted that taking off his jersey for the final time was a very emotional moment.
Being a university athlete is often the highlight of many players’ sporting careers. They’re formative years where these athletes create lifelong friends while also encountering some of the best and worst times of their lives.
For many, their most valuable experiences involved learning to relax, soaking it all in and just having fun playing the sports they love so much. Because, eventually, they’ll reach the end of the line.
And that’s life advice that goes beyond the boxscore.
“Just have fun, enjoy it, it’s really not gonna last forever and things really do get more serious afterwards,” said Ghazanfari.