Lucky are those who find their passion in life. It helps to have determination and drive. For two young farm kids, helping out with the family business and finding time to pursue their passion for sports is a juggling act that’s not always easy to achieve.
Fifteen-year-old Andie Hadway was raised on Westway Farms, a 4,500-acre pedigreed seed and 350-head commercial and purebred Simmental operation near Didsbury, AB. Hadway is an enthusiastic participant in farm life, with a particular interest in working with cattle. She helps with all aspects of the operation including the summer cattle shows and annual bull sale.
Her dedication hasn’t gone unrecognized. Last summer Hadway was named Junior National Young Cattleman of the Year; she teamed with Ty Dietrich of Forestburg, AB, to win the Western Canadian Junior Team Livestock Judging Competition; and was one of the recipients of this year’s Calgary Stampede International Youth Livestock Show scholarship.
Her other passion is soccer. She plays for the Girls U16 Chinook Sevilla, which finished the outdoor season as the top-ranked Tier II team in Calgary. After taking home the gold medal at Provincials in August, the team secured a spot in the Tier I division — the highest level of soccer youth can play in the city — to start the indoor season in October. “I love soccer so when I’m not working on the farm, I’m in the city playing the game,” says Hadway.
The hardest part of balancing farming and soccer, she says, is that meeting the demands of one sometimes comes at a cost to the other. Playing on a Tier I team means a commitment of four to five days a week practicing with the team, playing a game or participating in technical training. “Most days I hurry to get the important stuff done on the farm and then head off to soccer,” says Hadway. “But it’s not always possible.”
She says that setting priorities keeps her life in balance. “There are days I can’t make it to soccer practice because the farm takes priority,” says Hadway. “On the other hand, I couldn’t make it to a livestock competition this summer because I was at soccer provincials. Sometimes you can’t do it all.”
Tom Klinger, Hadway’s coach for the past year and a half, appreciates the choices she has to make to play soccer. “Her commitment to the farm is far more demanding than piano lessons, for example, and it is definitely a challenge to do both. So I will sometimes cut her a little slack,” says Klinger.
A high level of self-motivation helps. If Hadway does miss soccer, it’s usually due to winter road conditions. “She is so self-motivated, she will make it up by doing something on her own,” says Klinger.
Austin Connor, 18, has similar challenges balancing farming and sport. He was raised on High Level Farms, a 7,000-acre grain operation outside of Beechy, SK. Connor started at a young age operating all manner of farm machinery, helping with seeding, spraying, harvesting and everything in between.
He’s also a talented hockey player, a right-winger for the Western Hockey League (WHL) Prince Albert Raiders. Connor started playing elite hockey at an early age, which involved spending the hockey season away from the farm and living with another family in Prince Albert.
One of the biggest challenges, Connor says, is managing the time needed to do both. Because the start of hockey training and harvest overlap, he rarely gets to take part in harvest. This year he was able to farm until late August, finishing the desiccating before moving on to hockey.
“Working on the farm, school and hockey is a juggling act but we make it work. At the WHL level, even in the off-season when I’m back on the farm, there’s lots of training. So I’ll farm for four to five hours, go workout for a couple of hours and get back to the farm to work another four or five hours.”
Since there’s no gym close to the farm, Connor has found unique ways to combine the two activities — he’s been known to run the stairs at the grain elevator as part of his workout.
Connor and Hadway both credit their farm background as the foundation that helps keep them committed to both farm life and sport. “The work ethic I learned on the farm has made me a better soccer player,” says Hadway. “It also makes me appreciate the opportunity I have to play soccer.”
On one thing, especially, both these farm kids agree: pursuing their passion for sport and living a farm lifestyle wouldn’t be possible without the support of their family. Living east of Didsbury, the commute to soccer for Hadway is at least an hour, requiring taxi duty from her parents and help with chores from her sister.
Connor said his dad’s love of hockey encouraged him to go for his dreams, as long as he continues to work hard in other areas of his life. “As a farm kid, I know the value of hard work,” he says. “Now that I’m out of school and away from the farm, I just have to worry about hockey. The WHL schedule is busy but there is more down time than I’m used to. I would love to find a farmer around Prince Albert that could use some part-time help, just to get my farming fix.”