Safely back on campus. Learn More.

#GetReal with Ben Hillis: An Up Close and Personal Chat on Sports and Mental Health

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: May 2, 2022 3:10 p.m.

In addition to earning all-star status for his on-court excellence, Cougars’ guard Ben Hillis received the 2022 Ken Shields Award as the USPORTS as the player that best exemplifies outstanding achievement in basketball, academics and community involvement.
In addition to earning all-star status for his on-court excellence, Cougars’ guard Ben Hillis received the 2022 Ken Shields Award as the USPORTS as the player that best exemplifies outstanding achievement in basketball, academics and community involvement. Photo courtesy of Kinesiology and Health Studies

It’s Mental Health Week – May 2-8, 2022! And Ben Hillis knows the importance of the Canadian Mental Health Association dedicating this week to mental wellness awareness. Hillis, an all-star guard with the Cougars men’s basketball team, has been an advocate for mental wellness, talking to University students about the stresses of exams and keeping on top of studies. He also regularly gives talks to students in Regina-area schools about balancing athletics and academics.

Ben Hillis playing basketball

Ben Hillis in action against the University of Winnipeg Wesmen. Photo courtesy of Kinesiology and Health Studies

His many community-related activities and his academic and athletic prowess helped earn him the 2022 Ken Shields Award as the USPORTS player that best exemplifies outstanding achievement in basketball, academics and community involvement.

Having just completed his final season of USPORT eligibility, Hillis was also the recipient of the Canada West Student-Athlete Community Service Award and the U of R’s male Athlete of the Year and President’s Award for his excellence in academics and sport. Hillis put up the best statistics of his career and as a result was named a Canada West first team all-star.

The Business Administration student was also named an Academic All-Canadian and on the Dean’s list for the fifth consecutive year. Last month, Hillis was drafted in the second round by the Saskatchewan Rattlers of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.

Ben is a very dedicated student-athlete and shares how he manages stress and encourages others to do the same:

U of R: What is the nature of your mental health advocacy?

Ben: Last semester the University put out a video aimed at helping students manage stress during finals. As a student-athlete I offered my advice and a few tips that could help during a stressful time.

U of R: What led you to advocate for mental wellness in the community?

Ben: As someone who has had a pretty busy schedule through university, I know how stressful exam season can be! I figured I’d take the chance to participate in a video as a way to help out anyone who may need a little extra motivation to help as they navigate finals.

U of R: What is the focus of your talks in local schools?

Ben: Mostly just chatting with students who are curious about what it’s like to play university sports. I was once one of those kids who looked up to university players when my dad used to coach the team. I just answer any questions they have for me – whether it be basketball- or school-related.

U of R: You are obviously helping to make our community better. What remains your motivation for giving back to the community?

Ben: I grew up in Regina, took part in basketball camps, and always looked up to the Cougs so I’ve always thought it was the right thing to do when something was asked of us as players. Our coach Steve Burrows has also always emphasized that we represent our school in all areas, not just the court. I’ve always tried to represent our team the best I can.

U of R: What is your recipe for excellence in both athletics and academics?

Ben: For me it’s always been time management. Between studying, practice, workouts and extra shooting there’s not a lot of free time. Being able to balance the time between both has been super critical in being able to succeed at both.

U of R: What does receiving the Ken Shields award mean to you?

Ben: It’s really just an amazing honour. My dad knew Ken Shields back when he was in Victoria and has always told me what a great coach and leader he was. To be mentioned in the same light as him is pretty amazing and I don’t take it for granted.

U of R: What was the highlight of your university athletic career?

Ben: For me personally, it has to be my buzzer beater I hit against Victoria in Victoria during my third year. It’s every basketball player’s dream to hit a game winner and that’s the only one I’ve ever made. It was a pretty special moment.

U of R: You have completed your athletics eligibility. How will it feel to complete your studies without playing for the Cougars?

Ben: It will be bittersweet. It will be strange to see the guys practice and playing without me, but at the same time I’m looking forward to having some more free time and enjoying my weekends. It’s a pretty big time commitment so I’m looking forward to doing some new things.

U of R: What are your plans after you graduate?

Ben: After I graduate I’m not 100% sure what I’ll end up doing. Maybe I will start looking for work or travel for a bit. I still have one more year to finish up so I’m going to try and enjoy that and then see where it takes me!

 

For more information on the University of Regina’s mental wellness supports, visit the Mental Wellness Hub website.

 

Related

6 free mental wellness supports available for all U of R students

Six free services available for U of R students