Of course I don’t have a favourite basketball player on the team but I certainly feel like Tashana or Tash is a kindred spirit. She is in her third year of fashion design at Ryerson and given my background and last year’s In Their Shoes Project we always have lots to talk about.
Tash was born in Scarborough and lived there until she was 3 years old. She then moved to the Danforth area with her Dad and his girlfriend until grade 7, then they moved again to Durham region. She has many siblings – two younger sisters and a younger brother on her Dad’s side and two older brothers and a younger sister on her Mom’s side. She went to high school in Whitby. After high school she enrolled at OCADU (Ontario College of Art and Design University) to study textile design. After one year there she entered the Fashion Design program at Ryerson.
Tash told me that she played lots of different sports growing up but didn’t start playing basketball seriously until she was in grade 11, including attending basketball camps in the summer. When she went to OCADU she did not play basketball as they don’t have varsity athletics but she would travel back to Whitby some weeknights and some weekends and play for her high school coach. When Tash came to Ryerson in 2013 she joined the Ryerson Rams women’s basketball team but spent that year on the bench, with no opportunity to play in any games.
The summer before her second year she was trying to work out on her own but wasn’t sure exactly what to do in order to significantly improve her fitness and specifically her basketball skills. She was helping out at an event and met someone who suggested she connect with Patrick Williams one of the fitness trainers in athletics. She found Patrick and they developed a program for her and started to work together. This was only two weeks before team tryouts for the next season. She ended up getting cut and did not play last year. Although disappointed she could see her new program already had potential to improve her skills. After getting cut she thought about giving up but she stuck it out and kept working with Patrick all of last year. This is another thing that we have in common – we are both Patrick fans. I have been working out with Patrick for the last few years and he has been teaching me some of the basics of basketball this year. From never trying to put a basketball in a hoop, I can now put the ball in the basket 40-50% of the time because of Patrick’s help and instruction.
After all her work last year she was determined to make the team this year and she did. In the second season game against Waterloo she scored her first 5 points in an OUA regular season game. I asked her what was the most important thing that she learned last year when she was not on the team. She said…”not only do you need to believe in yourself, but sometimes you just need one other person to believe in you too”. For her this person was Patrick. I understood this completely, Patrick was the first person who ever made me believe that I was physically strong…because he told me I was, and he showed me I was, by showing me how much I could lift. Tash and I bonded over our mutual admiration and gratitude for Patrick.
So I next asked Tash what she loves about basketball. She said its a mind game to her and she likes the fact that you can constantly be improving. She said its like school where you are constantly learning. I asked her is she just focuses on herself and what she is doing/learning/trying or whether she watches the other players and tries to emulate or do what they do. She said that she watches more basketball now than in high school and likes to watch players who are good players but also likes to watch players who are good people. She explained to me that she doesn’t want her personality to be separate from basketball. She wants to be authentic – to be who she is on the court and off the court.
Next we talked about school. For a long time she thought she wanted to be a teacher. She tried for a while to focus on more traditional academic subjects like math and science but could not deny her creativity and the fact that she was drawn to express herself in fashion. During her year at OCADU she worked on her portfolio and applied to the fashion design program. She was very excited when she discovered that she was accepted. In her first year of the program she found it challenging to manage school and basketball and could see how challenged and stressed other students the program were. The program is demanding and she does most of her work – pattern drafting, construction etc.- at home.
I just love talking to Tash…talking sewing, basketball, anything. I am inspired by her determination, after being cut from the team last year, to work all year to get better so she could make the team this year. She won’t see as many minutes on the floor as some players but she brings dedication and hard work and a joyful, energetic, and positive spirit to everything I have seen her do. What a pleasure to have had the opportunity to get to know her.
She has endured a set back recently – last week during practice Tash fractured her finger – She took a picture of it before heading to the hospital, and posted it on social media. When it happened all I could think about was how she was going to be able to sew and finish her end of term assignments. I am still worried about how she is going to manage this. If there was a way that I could help her do some of the sewing I would…but I suspect that having the Vice Provost do part of your assignment for you would be frowned on and would get us both of us in trouble. So for now I will stick with improving my shooting and leave the sewing to her fractured finger and all.