What does it mean to be a great horned owl?

Close shot of a Humber court basket ball net

When I envisioned my life in university at a young age, I saw myself playing on a varsity team and living the incredibly demanding student-athlete life.  When I accepted my enrollment offer and began my Guelph-Humber journey, I learned that I would need to declare myself as either a Guelph Gryphon or Humber Hawk to play varsity sports. As I prepared that summer for soccer tryouts, I vividly remember asking myself two questions, “Which team should I try out for?” and “I wonder what Guelph-Humber’s mascot would be if we had varsity sports?”

The answer to the former question came to me very easily, when I broke my ankle later that same summer.  Months of physical preparation were in vain and I was unable to heal in time for tryouts. Missing out on varsity tryouts as well as intramural sports in my first year of university devastated me, but I’ve learned that it sometimes takes a good fall to know exactly where you stand. I was nowhere near good enough to play for the Gryphons or the Hawks, which I quickly realized when I saw the Humber Hawks win the men’s national college championship three months into my first semester at Guelph-Humber.

That very same Humber Hawks Men’s Soccer program just completed its fifth undefeated season and won the CCAA Championships for the sixth time since 2012.  As of 2018, Humber has the most CCAA titles across all sports, cementing it as Canada’s premier sports college.  For media students in the Multimedia Journalism specialization at Guelph-Humber, this means unprecedented access to some of the country’s top rising sports stars.

As an aspiring sports broadcaster, I’ve found immense value in the access to Humber athletes granted to me as a Guelph-Humber media student.  I’ve interviewed members of Humber’s men’s basketball team for a story about student-athlete finances. I’ve also had the privilege of profiling Ceejay Nofuente, arguably the greatest female college basketball player in Canadian history.

The Guelph Gryphons have an incredible athletics program as well, boasting the top-ranked women’s and second-ranked men’s cross-country programs in Canada at the end of 2021.  From 2005-2016, the Gryphons women’s cross-country team won 12 national university championships in a row.  The Gryphons are also defending provincial champions in women’s rugby.  The ability to play for or provide media coverage for one or both of these remarkable nationally-accredited sports programs as a Guelph-Humber student is a rare freedom.

Over the course of my undergrad, I discovered that I was better at writing words than scoring goals anyway.  I’ve been able to create content about some of the best Canadian college athletes and submit that content to my instructors, who are actively employed by many of the companies that Guelph-Humber students go on to work for. I’ve been taught by Toronto Star reporters and an active CBC News host.  I’ve seen members of my first Guelph-Humber cohort go on to get permanent positions as writers and on-air talent for both of those companies.

In 2015, halfway through my third year, I left school in order to work full-time and save money to finish my undergrad on stable financial footing in the future.  The answer to my second question, “I wonder what Guelph-Humber’s mascot would be if we had varsity sports?” revealed itself that same year.

Fear no mess; it just means you’re a normal, functioning human being.

Guelph-Humber’s Student Life Department had set out to gather feedback from students and faculty regarding a brand-new mascot for the school.  Swoop the great horned (GH) owl was presented to the campus in the fall of 2015.  Per a school press-release, the great horned owl “is sometimes nicknamed Tiger of the Air because, like University of Guelph-Humber, it’s nimble, powerful and adaptable.”

In the end, saving money took a while and my mom was starting to wonder if I’d ever return to school, but like this article’s position in the story lineup of this magazine, I’m back.  With the pandemic shutting down the world, I was no longer working anyway.  The timing felt perfect to go back to school.

Coming back to school gave me a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel to chase, and this journey has in turn made me more employable.  I’ve sharpened my broadcast skills and developed genuine relationships with professors and peers that are worth more than anything.

As one of my favourite instructors and truly one of my favourite people, John Northcott would say: “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”  I know the relationships that I’ve forged will pay dividends in my future.

Featured Image Credit: Zac Buttivant

John Sequeira

Passionate sports fan. Leafs apologist. Move the Coyotes to Hamilton.