It may take a village to raise a child, but it can take a whole team to
help a university student.
Anton Jacobs-Webb is competing at his first IPC World Para Hockey
Championship this week in Ostrava, Czech Republic, while also completing
his first year of a mechanical engineering undergraduate at Concordia
“It wasn’t bad during the [regular school year], but the summer semester
has been a lot more intense,” says Jacobs-Webb, explaining this semester is
only eight weeks long and his advanced calculus class has six hours of
lectures a week. In fact, shortly after arriving in the Czech Republic, he
needed to write a midterm.
“We got back from [practice] just in time for me to start my exam,” says
the Gatineau, Que., product, who had support from team staff to make sure
the exam fit within the team schedule. “My exam started at 3:30, we had
lunch at 3, so I had a quick lunch, brought some more food back to my room
and then started my exam.
“I definitely passed and I think I’ll do ok.”
Jacobs-Webb chose mechanical engineering as his focus because of an
interest in bicycles. He’s been working as a bike mechanic every summer for
four years and wants to use his knowledge to start designing them.
“I’m interested in the aerodynamics of bikes and also just materials,” he
says. He also notes industrial design and architecture are also
possibilities for his future, though, so he’s not committing to one career
path just yet.
“I like to think that I have options later. I like knowing I have career
now (hockey) and I have a possible career later in whatever I choose to
Jacobs-Webb has been working with program assistant Sabrina Poirier from
Concordia over the last year as he learned to balance school and hockey.
She also helped facilitate a new exam schedule when it conflicted with a
para training camp.
“It takes a special person to balance university academics and such a high
level of commitment to a prestigious sports program,” Poirier says. “It’s a
pleasure to help – even in a small way – with his impressive journey.
“I’ll be cheering for him!”
Teammates have also been key supporters through his first para worlds,
checking in on his exam and study efforts. Some, like Rob Armstrong, even
had helpful tips. Armstrong has been in university throughout his time with
the national team and suggested Jacobs-Webb move his studying to the
morning instead of in the evening.
“After a day of long practices, the last thing you want to do is read a
book or write for hours, so any other time throughout the day is when I’m
most productive,” explains Armstrong, who is completing a double-major in
pre-law and history at Carleton University.
“I can’t get a ton done after practice when we’re doing two-a-days, so I
started getting up an hour and a half or two hours before breakfast,
getting some work done,” says Jacobs-Webb. “It’s a lot more effective.”
The payoff from all that extra studying will come early in July, when
Jacobs-Webb will write his final exam of the summer course. The exam was
initially scheduled for June 27 – the day after the medals will be awarded
in Ostrava – but with support from the university, he was able to get it
delayed, allowing him to also take in the experience of his first
“I am really, really excited to play and wear the jersey and get a shot at
winning the gold medal and then looking onto [the 2022] Paralympics after
this,” says Jacobs-Webb, adding he expects to continue taking classes next
year as well, but will be looking at a further reduced schedule to allow a
greater focus on hockey.
That strategy that worked for Armstrong in 2018 in the lead up to his first
Paralympic Winter Games. And while he laughs thinking about how long he’s
been focusing on school and hockey at the same time, it’s a sacrifice he
feels will be worth it in the end.
“All my friends are graduating [with] their master’s or are almost finished
law school, so I’m definitely on a different career path if you look at it
that way,” the 24-year-old says. “But then you just kind of have to think
to yourself – I’ve been to a Paralympic Games, how many people can say
that? I’ve been to three world championships, and I get to represent Canada
“[Being in school] is something that is always in the back of your mind,
but if you can find that balance, it’s so worth it.”