As a defensive end for the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, 32-year-old John Chick doesn’t play around when it comes to healthy habits.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the eighth grade, Chick has been battling the effects of the disease throughout his athletic career. In fact, it was his dedication to sports that originally led to his diagnosis. As a boy, Chick was committed to all kinds of sports — baseball, basketball, track and field, football. It wasn’t until exhaustion and constant thirst set in that he discovered he had type 1 diabetes.

Initially, he was devastated, thinking he would have to put his big dreams on hold. “I was a high-school freshman taking six to eight injections a day,” he says. “My blood sugar was always in flux.”

After some initial setbacks, John received his first insulin pump, which helped him turn an intimidating diagnosis into fuel for success. This small device regularly monitors blood sugar levels and made more sense for Chick. He has relied on the pump since 2003, both on and off the field.

“Sports always gave me a routine that helped with my control, and the exercise put me in a position to be consistently monitoring my blood sugar level,” he says. “Thanks to today’s research and technology, diabetes continues to become more and more manageable — but there’s no cure just yet.”

John began his career with the CFL in 2007, when he was first signed with the Roughriders. After playing in the National Football League for teams such as the Indianapolis Colts in 2010 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 and 2012, Chick returned to Saskatchewan in 2013.

When he was growing up in Wyoming, Chick idolized athletes such as basketball star Michael Jordan and football linebacker Bill Romanowski, but there weren’t many people in sports with diabetes to relate to.

As an ambassador and spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDRF), Chick has become that role model for kids growing up just like he did. He shares his story to help raise awareness about diabetes: “You hope you are that positive influence. You want these kids to think, ‘Hey, John Chick has diabetes and he can do this — maybe I can, too.’”

Tips from a pro

  • Be diligent and keep to your routine — an exercise regimen will help you make healthier choices more often than not.
  • If you are diabetic, test your blood sugar level often. The more you know about your blood sugar the better.
  • Variety is important when it comes to both your diet and your exercise routine. Don’t eat too much of one thing -- whether or not you’re diabetic, moderation is key.
  • Look at the glass as half-full, and focus on what you can do. It might be harder and require more work, but use that pressure to push yourself towards attaining your personal goals.