Q&A with Taylor Curran: Civil undergrad and Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games medalist

Monday, August 24, 2015 | By Lindsay Cashin

game vs. Argentina

Civil undergrad Taylor Curran competed in field hockey with the Canadian Men’s National Team at this summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto. Read on for his reflections on life as a student athlete, highlights of the Pan Am Games, and what’s next for this soon-to-be BASc Civil graduate. All photos by Yan Huckendubler.

We understand your mom introduced you to field hockey at a young age. What has driven you over the years to where you are today in the sport?

TC: Yes! In fact, my mom played four years of Varsity field hockey for UBC, and was part of the undefeated 1982/83 women’s team that was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame. She introduced me to the game when I was only eight years old, and coached me (and both my younger brothers) until I was sixteen years old. I think I’ve been driven simply by the fun and enjoyment I get from competition. I’ve always loved the struggle to continue improving and to perform at my best, and so sports have always been a central part of my life. I ended up in field hockey specifically because of a few coaches that really believed in me and gave me opportunities that I was very lucky to get — that really helped me develop as a player and motivate me to continue with field hockey.

You’ve travelled widely and competed in major international competitions with the men’s national team. Did the Pan Am Games stand out for you as a particularly memorable experience? What was it like to compete on “home soil” in Toronto?

TC: The Pan Am Games will certainly stand out when I look back on my international career one day. We compete all over the world, but very rarely at home, and there’s certainly something special about doing so. A large, enthusiastic home crowd like we had in Toronto can help give you that little bit of energy or confidence, but what really stands out for me was being able to play in front of so many friends and family, who so rarely are able to see us play. My mom, aunt, uncle and youngest brother were all able to come watch us play, and having that kind of support from them in the crowd is what really made this feel like “home soil” to me!

What was the biggest highlight of your experience in Toronto, and what’s next for you in terms of major competitions?

TC: We came into the tournament with a clear goal – winning the tournament – and were unfortunately not able to achieve that. However, in the broader picture, our tournament was a success, as our semifinal win against Brazil was enough to officially qualify us for the Rio 2016 Olympics. After missing out on the London Olympics in 2012, securing an Olympic berth was a major accomplishment for our team, and I think that will be the highlight I remember when I look back on this tournament. As for what’s next, all our efforts for the next year will be geared squarely towards performing at our best next August in Rio. In the near term, we have a bit of time off the pitch now to work on strength and power, and then will resume regular squad training session in October to start preparing for the World League Final, a tournament in India featuring the world’s top eight ranked teams from the Olympic qualification process.

As an elite athlete, how do you thrive while balancing the demands of a rigorous program like Civil Engineering?

TC: I get this question a lot, but (unfortunately) I don’t have any big secret. My commitment to the national team means that I sometimes have to miss classes for tournaments and training camps, and in my experience, communication with the professor is critical to making this work. I always introduce myself after the first class, and tell him or her about my situation and any upcoming events; then, I continue to communicate and keep them informed of my team obligations, giving as much advance notice as possible. I’ve found that this makes it much easier to ask for help around absences or other issues if they do arise. I also end up relying a lot on friends to help me out, such as by sending me copies of their lecture notes or advising me of any important point or announcements made in class. Plus, a good textbook or teacher that posts lots of material on Connect certainly helps! Outside of absences for tours, time management is critical. During the school year, I’m usually on the pitch or at the gym 8-10 times per week, so I have to try to cram studying in wherever I can – although it often seems that the sheer workload I encounter in civil engineering makes this more of a necessity than anything!

What about your plans for the future in Civil Engineering? Where do you see yourself going in the profession once you graduate?

TC: As for my future plans in Civil Engineering, that’s a bit up in the air. I’m interested primarily in structural and transportation engineering, and would love to pursue a career in either of those fields. I may return to school (UBC, for sure) to complete a master’s in either transportation or structural. However, I also want to continue playing for the national team. As a result, I’ll need to keep working hard at the balance I mentioned earlier – thankfully, I’ve had plenty of practice!

game vs. BrazilSemifinal vs. Brazilred caribou Team Canada – the “Red Caribou!”
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