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Maintaining life balance something Robbenhaar can really sink his teeth into

A star in the classroom who has also helped coach the younger kids, Barrie native hopes to become a dentist one day

Making sure he has time for both work and play has all always been a central focus for Barrie's Vincent Robbenhaar.

One of the things his parents always impressed on him growing up was having what they called a proper life balance.

"From making sure the academics were good, to sports with exercise and physical and mental health was good, as well as a decent social life," the 18-year-old told BarrieToday. "I feel like it's been a good aspect as to who I am today being able to balance a good school workload as well as exercising and having friends.

"It's certainly done great for me because I have connections for all three and it keeps life fun and interesting, so I'm really grateful for that."

It's also helped the teenager build an impressive resume in the classroom and on the ice.

The Eastview Secondary School graduate won the school's academic award for the highest overall average in the classroom two years in a row, earning an impressive 97.5 per cent average in Grade 11. He also managed to play rep hockey in the Barrie Minor Hockey Association (BMHA) from 2013 to 2018.

That hard work hasn't gone unnoticed, as Robbenhaar is one of five high school graduates named an inaugural winner of an $8,000 post-secondary bursary from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. The bursary program provides Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) players recognition of their outstanding contribution to community service, athletic and academic success.

"When I first found out I was really happy, ecstatic, jumping for joy. It was awesome," the first-year Western University student said. "The reward itself, it's great. It definitely helps out a lot with school. My mom and dad support me with everything my whole life and university, too, so it was nice to be able to hold up my end as well.

"It was nice just to see my work and efforts get recognized."

Robbenhaar is studying medical sciences at Western before likely specializing in biochemistry next year. His goal once he completes that is to stay at the London, Ont., school and enter their dentistry program with the hopes of becoming a dentist and having his own practice.

That's been his goal since Grade 10.  

"My two favourite school subjects were the finance side as well as the medical science side, so I figured with a dentist I could get the best of both worlds," he said. "I could run and operate my own practice and have the business and financial aspect behind that as well as having the doctor side of knowing how things work at a molecular level and being able to help people with their problems and that sort of thing.

"That just seemed to be the best of both worlds at the time and it's been my game plan ever since."

Time management is key for anyone looking to balance school and athletics. Robbenhaar says whenever his hockey team was on a bus trip to a tournament, he was the kid at the back doing his homework or plugging away at a project.

"Vincent is an extraordinary student," said Megan McColm, his former teacher. "He is incredibly respectful, loves problem solving challenges, and loves to work with others collaboratively."

Robbenhaar started playing hockey when he was just six years old in the Barrie Christian Hockey League before joining the BMHA as a major atom and earning a spot on the Barrie AE team. The following year, he played with the minor peewee 'A' rep team before continuing on with the same team to minor midget and then wrapped up his minor hockey career with two years of house league hockey.

"I never really had the dream of playing in the NHL," he said. "I always loved hockey, but for me it's always been a hobby, per se. The best-case scenario would have been an NCAA scholarship. It would have been awesome, but as I got a little older I started to realize it wasn't in my best interests in trying to balance high grades and hockey got difficult, so I just decided to step down to a lower level of hockey so I can make sure the grades are well.

"I'm almost certain I'll continue to play hockey the rest of my life. I never really had that dream or pursuit of the NHL or OHL level."

His involvement with the game wasn't just on the ice. He spent the last two hockey seasons coaching with his dad, Pat. Together, they coached a minor tyke team which gave him the opportunity to give back to the game like so many others who helped him have.

"I didn't necessarily realize this at the time, they (my coaches) put in a lot of effort and a lot of resources to make sure I had a good experience and a good time," he said. "Looking back on it, especially when I dropped down to house league, I had more time for this and decided I'd like to give back to the community how the community gave to me."

He loved coaching the same group for two years. 

"It was honestly amazing," he said. "Lots of fun to be able to give back to the younger generation of athletes and have them look up to me as a coach as I once did to other coaches."

While it's nice to see someone recognize his efforts, Robbenhaar admits he's normally always been the lead-by-example kid. His determination to be the best has always driven him, whether it's in a classroom or out on the ice.

"Throughout hockey and throughout my schooling career, I've always been very competitive," said Robbenhaar, who says his parents have also been a great influence in helping him achieve all he has. "I remember in elementary school I wrote these math competitions and I would work with my friends so we could all do our best, but I always had to be the best.

"Even now with courses, I always have expectations for myself. I push myself to make sure I reach those goals. Yeah, I'm competitive on and off the ice."

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed how schooling is done at Western. While he's in residence and all his classes are online, he still gets a couple of chem labs each semester where he gets to go into the lab and perform experiments. He also has an economics tutorial every Friday and a math tutorial every Thursday, but aside from that his classes are all pre-recorded or on Zoom.

"I spend a lot of time in my dorm room learning. I do get to go to some classes and get some university life experience," said Robbenhaar, who didn't want to take the year off like some of his friends did. "It's not ideal, but it's the best-case scenario for the current situation."

The big thing for him is just having proper time management: Making sure he has time for his studies as well as going out for a run, reading or doing something for his own pleasure.

"Just trying to balance the whole aspect of life through the pandemic," he said.