I knew that I wanted to interview Jaime the minute I met her in August. The first day I showed up to practice, when no one really knew what the hell I was doing there, she was the only other newcomer. She was so warm and friendly and welcoming to me that I knew I liked her instantly.
Jaime grew up in north Vancouver living with her Mom and Grandma and went to high school there. After high school she studied kinesiology at UBC for two years and played on the basketball team. For what would have been her third year at UBC she applied to the new Sport Media program at Ryerson but her application was too late to be considered for that year. This left Jaime with a big decision – continue her studies at UBC for another year and apply again, or take a year off of school and work and apply again. With respect to basketball, if she came to Ryerson directly from studying elsewhere she would have been benched for a year before she could play for her new school as per CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) rules. She decided to take a year off and worked at a drive in restaurant full time while she went through the application process again. Leaving university basketball for a year while she did this allowed her to play basketball as soon as she arrived at Ryerson.
As I listened to her talk about her immediate family – just her and her Mom, I couldn’t help but think about how much her Mom must miss her. It has just been the two of them for her whole life and now she is on the other side of the country. When I asked her about this she said “yeah she really does…but we talk everyday”. Her Mom came to Toronto to help her get settled in when she moved here, and the basketball team has a trip to BC in a few weeks to play exhibition games against 3 BC universities so Jaime will get to see her then and I will get to meet her.
I asked Jaime why the switch from UBC to Ryerson. Jaime has wanted to study broadcast journalism since she was in the early years of high school. When she graduated there was no program that fit what she wanted to do at a university that would allow her to play basketball. There may have been other options at Ryerson in the RTA School of Media but she was not sure she was ready to leave home. Then the combination of not loving her program at UBC, the new Sport Media program launched at Ryerson and the growing success and reputation of the Ryerson basketball program, created the perfect conditions for Jaime to make the move. She is basically starting over academically as there are only a few classes that might be able to transfer between the programs.
I asked her about the UBC women’s basketball program and she said they placed third nationally last year. In the first round of the National Championship UBC played against Ryerson and she said it was hard to watch the team she had been part of battling the team she would soon join. We also talked process transitioning between schools with respect to basketball and how that worked. Jaime wasn’t initially sure that she wanted to continue to play basketball when she left UBC…she said that she started to feel like she was losing her passion for the game which surprised everyone who knew her. She said that she was getting frustrated with herself and losing confidence in her skills…she was putting in a lot of work and wasn’t seeing the results that she expected and started to question why she was continuing. She came to realize that not being happy in her program at school may have made everything more frustrating. I am glad to report that her love of the game came back during her year off when she could find that passion again by watching a lot of basketball and training and working on her own. She had visited Ryerson and met the coach and participated in a scrimmage before applying and she stayed in touch with Carly during her year off. Now she is officially a Ryerson Ram.
I asked her the same question I have been asking all the players – what is it about this game? Why do they make this huge commitment. Jaime started playing basketball when she was nine because one of her best friends wanted to play and didn’t want to sign up alone. So Jaime signed up but her friend dropped out before they had any practices or anything. Jaime’s Mom told her that she had signed up and she needed to follow through with her commitment. She did and loved it. She struggled a bit to describe what it is about basketball mostly because she has had success in every sport she has tried and there is a long list – volleyball, field hockey, soft ball, synchronized swimming, speed swimming, soccer – she said, “I was always that kid…the one who was going from school to three different practices in the same day”.
Basketball stood out…she said it probably became her sport because she picked it up fast and was really good at it right away. But by grade 7 she was the “worst” player on her team which frustrated her and drove her to want to be even better so she worked hard and by grade 9 she caught up and surpassed some. She also said it was a sport that her mom hadn’t played so it was something that was just hers and she could teach her mom about it as she went along. She was close to the husband of one of her mom’s friends growing up – he was like a father figure – and he was really into basketball so that was something that they shared. Jaime said that every skill she has a person she learned from playing sports…teamwork, how to work really hard for something that you want, how to manage your time, how to set goals for yourself and reevaluate when things are not working, how to cooperate with people who you struggle to get along with, etc. She has also learned the joy of things going really well and how invested you get and how challenging it is when something doesn’t go your way…including how to deal with really major disappointments.
We both agreed that despite being a bit nervous about coming into an established team the other women on the team have been incredibly welcoming. This probably has a lot to do with the model that coach Carly has set, the players she has recruited and the expectations that she has of her team. Jaime said that this is what makes a good team…people who put the team first, people who don’t put their own success or opportunity to score above passing the ball to put it in the right place to further the success of the team. This team culture has made it much easier for her to feel part of the team quickly.
I asked Jaime what her future holds and what her dream job is…it is a big but awesome dream…to be the 5th member of the TNT half time report panel for the NBA along with Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley… She thinks they need a female on the panel. Given that her dream job is probably unrealistic she simply described a desire to “use sports to make other people happy” through community service and community engagement…like the work that the NBA Cares organization does. She is also interested in telling feature stories about sports that inspire people and make them happy.
The last thing I asked her was what people would be surprised to know about her. She said that she doesn’t think it would surprise anyone but that her Grandma is one of her favourite people in the world. They play word games on line and talk all the time.
Jaime seemed to fit in with the team at Ryerson immediately. I told her that I think that has a lot to do with her… her personality and how she is in the world. She is friendly, engaged with people, really supportive of her teammates, quick to laugh. She has a real positive energy – someone you just want to be around. When I told her this she told me a story that her Mom always tells about how when she was little they used to go for walks along the sea wall in Vancouver. Jaime would go up to random strangers and tell them her name was Mavis and start conversations with them. She has always liked getting to know other people and learning about them. This will be an important asset in her chosen profession and certainly was an asset in joining a new team and being accepted fully.