Katherine (or Kat as her friends and teammates call her) starting playing for the RAMS last year in her first year at Ryerson. She is 19 years old and has just started her second year in the Sports Media program. Kat was born in Quebec but her family moved to Toronto on her first birthday. She grew up in the Beaches with her siblings…an older brother and older sister. Her brother who is 6’8″ played some basketball and is a swimmer. Her sister played basketball in high school and both Kat and her sister also excelled in Irish dancing growing up. Her grandfather was born in Ireland and emigrated to Canada. She started Irish dancing when she was 5 years old. Her sister chose dance over basketball and competed internationally. Kat stopped dance in grade 10 after competing in the North American championships.
She had to make a choice between dance and basketball and she picked basketball because she thought she could go further in basketball and because as she described it “dance is not a tall person’s sport”. Kat is 6’2″. I asked her if she ever misses dance and she said that she misses the friends and community around dancing but she has that with basketball. She enjoyed the competitions and she learned a lot that has helped her basketball including footwork, body control and jumping, all of which are part of Irish dance. She can also learn things more quickly since she spent years having to learn choreography and deal with last minute changes to choreography.
I asked Kat about how she became interested in basketball and she said that her mom had played basketball in university. Her Mom also coached her elementary school basketball team which her sister played on and if she wanted a ride to school she needed to go early because the team practiced early. So she ended up helping at practices playing defence against a really good player who was older than her and went on the play for a US college. Her job was to “stick to her like glue”. She played on the team her Mom coached for grades 4, 5 & 6…then changed schools in grades 7 & 8 and stopped playing basketball. She started playing again in grade 9. After stopping dance in grade 10 she started to think about the possibility of playing university basketball.
Kat told me that she chose to come to Ryerson for two reasons – the coaching staff and her program. She had played for a high school summer travelling team that was coached by Kait Asquini, one of the Assistant Coaches for the Ryerson WBB team. Head Coach Carly was involved with that team. She had this chance to play for Kait and Carly the summer after she completed grade 11 and she got to know their coaching style and what they were looking for in putting the team together at Ryerson. The relatively new Sport Media program at Ryerson was also a good fit for her given her interest in studying something related to, or involving sport. She was interested in the technology side of the program as well since she took communication technology courses in high school and had been making videos and weekly sports updates for her high school news program.
I continue to try and understand why these young women make such a huge sacrifice to play on a varsity team in terms or time and wear and tear on their bodies (Kat had been on the sidelines since hurting her leg at practice on Tuesday last week – but she was back on the court last night). She said that she does not feel like she is giving up anything because it is all she knows. She has been playing sports all her life. I said “so its part of who you are?” – she responded “it is who I am”. She said for example when she tried to quit dance when she was much younger she could only last a couple of months because she missed it too much – the atmosphere, the tough regime of training, etc. She said that she might complain a lot about early morning practices and 7 am. hills but secretly she loves it. She credits her involvement in sport with teaching her so much about health, fitness and eating properly (although she still “loves her McDonalds”). This is knowledge that will serve her for the rest of her life. For her a “normal” university experience includes basketball. It is that simple.
Kat told me that the life lessons she has received from basketball include how to work with people who are different from you and see things different than you do. She has met and bonded with people through basketball that she probably would not have met otherwise. She also said basketball makes you toughen up, and learn how to handle tough losses and come back from disappointment.
Kat is now in her second year. She arrived at Ryerson last year knowing some of the other first year players. She had played with or against some of her current teammates in rep basketball. She said that anyone playing high level women’s basketball in Ontario would probably know a lot of the other players in the same age range. She has friends playing at U of T, Carleton, Western and in the US. Even though she came to the team knowing a number of the other players last year, she expressed feeling a lot more comfortable this year.
I asked her about her future. She said that coming into Ryerson she thought she was clear about what she wanted to do but she has less clarity about this now. She is sure of one thing, and I love this answer – “I’d like to be happy doing something I enjoy”. Right now she thinks she is having a “mid-life university crisis”. She thought when she came to Ryerson that she wanted to go into broadcasting ie. on-air work but has since realized that she is not enamoured of the idea that you have to look good (hair, make-up, etc) every day and can’t just wear comfortable athletic gear. She is not ready to give up her wardrobe of sweat pants. She enjoys her program, is currently enjoying the production side of the program, and she has time to figure out what is next for her.
I asked Kat what she loves besides basketball. The answer came quickly and decisively – Food! She said she is pretty uncomplicated – she likes going to class, she loves food and sleeping. Basketball, Food and Sleeping. I also asked her what people would be surprised to know about her and she replied that she enjoys watching the TV show “Dance Moms”. At first she said it was a “guilty pleasure” and then took that back basically because she does not feel any guilt about it. She insisted that there is no reason to feel guilty about something that you enjoy. She enjoys it because it shows her that her dance experience wasn’t as crazy as the experience some other younger dancers go through.
The last thing I asked her was what she thought about this project that I am doing. She said she was excited mostly about the possible exposure that her team would get. There was a lot of hype and attention around campus last year about the Men’s basketball team and the fact that Ryerson hosted the Men’s national championship. The Women’s team had a hugely successful year and broke all kinds of Ryerson records such as being the first women’s team to win a game at a national championship. We can all see that there is, unfortunately, more attention paid to men’s sports than women’s sports on our campuses and in our larger society. She is hopeful that a few more people will know more about her team and their accomplishments through this blog. So keep reading and sharing their story with others.
I hope she is right because they deserve to be celebrated for their hard work and dedication.
(All the photographs included in this blogpost were taken by Ryerson Rams student photographer Alex D’Addesse – for more info check out his facebook page here.)