For the Love of Sport: Lessons Learned from an Athlete and a Scholar

Sports, scholarships and the importance of saving for the future

By: Veronica Torres

I can’t accurately describe who I am without talking about sports. Soccer has played such an important role in my life, and is more than just a hobby. For me, soccer has been formative – it has shaped my character, exposed me to new experiences, and opened doors to numerous opportunities.

Like most kids, I started playing soccer at a young age because my parents simply signed me up; and I enjoyed it, so I continued to play for fun, every summer from the age of four. When I was ten, I joined the Ajax United Magic, which was a highly competitive team.

I eventually went on to play for the Varsity Women’s Soccer Team at the Illinois Institute of Technology

Over the years, with the increased level of competition, of course, came the increase in commitment, both in time and money. Between the year-round practices, games, tournaments, camps; equipment and gear; sports psychology, nutrition, and SAT prep classes; injury treatment and rehabilitation; and all of the travelling across and outside of the country, the investment was substantial.

But that’s exactly what it was – an investment.

WATCH video of Veronica and other 2016 CST Graduate Award Winners

Growing up, I was incredibly lucky to have parents who supported my love and passion for the game. At the same time, I was very fortunate to play for a coaching staff that valued education just as much as the sport. They emphasized the fact that sports could be used as a tool for education. And that is why every minute committed to the game was not just for the team and joy of playing, but also to open the doors to an athletic scholarship.

So, although my parents had to spend a lot of money to accommodate my extracurriculars, it paid off in the long run when I was able to secure an athletic scholarship that helped pay for my undergraduate education.

Of course, it also helped that my parents started a CST Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) for me early on. Knowing that I already had some money set aside for my education allowed me to spend time on things that were really important to me, and not have to worry about getting a job.

Veronica with her parents at graduation.

With an RESP, I was able to focus more on school, participate in extra-curricular activities, and spend time with my friends and family. Planning for the future and having that savings there was especially comforting because of the uncertainties in sports.

It was always my dream to be able to play collegiate level soccer in the US, but of course with athletics, there is always the potential for injuries.  During my grade 11 year of high school, I suffered a concussion that sidelined me from soccer for three months and kept me out of school for a month.

That time also happened to be crucial for athletic recruiting and because of my injury, I had to miss out on important soccer showcases where there would be college coaches.  In addition, I couldn’t take my SATs, which were necessary for applying to US schools.

Luckily, things eventually worked out for me, but had I not been so fortunate, I wouldn’t have the additional athletic financial aid to support my undergraduate education.  This is why having an RESP made such a difference for me. I knew that even without an athletic scholarship, the option of pursuing a post-secondary education was still possible.

I attended Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago on an athletic and academic scholarship where I was able to pursue my passion of sports as a member of the varsity women’s soccer team, as well as my interest in science by studying Biomedical Engineering. The combination of athletics and academics was instrumental. It taught me about time management, work ethic, and perseverance. It allowed me to meet people from all over the world and gain different perspectives. It gave me friendships that I will cherish for a lifetime.

Currently, I am a second-year PhD student still studying Biomedical Engineering at Illinois Tech, and I can confidently say that I wouldn’t be here without soccer, and that the skills I learned and developed over my years on the field, are still being used today.  

Veronica Torres is a CST Graduate Award winner and CST beneficiary.  She is a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  Veronica's future aspiration is to improve the prognosis and quality of life of patients through advances in medical technology.