McKenzie, or Mac as she is known to her team, was born in Toronto but grew up in Port Hope until grade 4 and has lived in Toronto ever since. Mac has a sister who recently graduated from medical school and played varsity rugby as a student at McMaster. Her mom is on the faculty at Ryerson and also used to play basketball at Carleton University as an undergrad. Mac’s mom is a regular in the stands at Ryerson Rams women’s basketball games.
Mac started playing basketball when she was 9 years old. She played other sports growing up but quickly focused all her energy on basketball. She said she would spend her whole time at recess just dribbling her ball, even in the winter. When she went to high school and found that there were no outdoor basketball hoops at her school she went to the principal and lobbied to have hoops put up. When I asked her why basketball she said it was just a place where she felt like she could be herself…a place where she was comfortable. She made all her friends through basketball and she had no worries about anything when she was on the court…she could just have fun and enjoy the moment.
Mac is enrolled in the Early Childhood Studies program at Ryerson and hopes to become a teacher. She originally chose Carleton because she wanted to go away to university and figured Ottawa was a good idea because she had family there and liked the city. She had opportunities to go to the U.S. but always thought that if she stayed in Canada she would go to Carleton because her mom played there and she thought it would be cool to play in the same place as her mom. She started there studying Integrated Science and although she did well in it she decided the program was not for her. She also realized that she was more of a homebody than she thought and decided to come back to Toronto and enroll at Ryerson. She said it was the right decision for her because she really loves being home.
Despite having joined the Ryerson Rams last year when she transferred to Ryerson from Carleton, this is her first year actually playing for Ryerson. When students transfer between schools they actually have to sit out for a year as per CIS and OUA rules. So while she was a member of the team and practiced with the team all last year this is her first year on the court during a game as a Ram. She was aware of what Carly was doing with the team and had been friends with Sof since they were 13 years old and they had played together when they were young for a team in Oakville. So Ryerson was not only a good fit academically but she was able to find her basketball home here too. She also talked about how much she likes
Carly’s coaching style and said she appreciates having a coach that she can trust and who is tough and supportive at the same time.
I asked Mac what she has learned from playing basketball. She talked about how the game is connected to important life lessons such as learning to be disciplined, adhering to a schedule, and learning to connect with lots of different people. At the end of the day for Mac the most important thing she takes away from her experience playing the game she loves is the friendships she has developed and the memories that she and her friends have had playing together. She said her mom always told her that the 5 years you get to play for your university will go by very quickly and that she will miss it when it is done, even though it is a huge time commitment. I asked her what she finds most frustrating about basketball and while she struggled a bit for an answer she did mention that the travel and school conflicts created as a result can be challenging to manage.
When asked what she wants to accomplish this year Mac said without hesitation that she wants the team to go to nationals. I asked her what the team needs to do to make this possible. Her response…continuing to work hard, get better, and gain more experience playing competitive teams. As I am typing this I am sitting court side at practice watching them work hard to get better – there is a great deal of hope for their prospects.
Mac wants to go to teachers college and become a teacher…right now she is thinking somewhere in the K-6 grade range. She may also be interested in one day being a basketball coach at whatever school she is teaching at. Outside of basketball fun for Mac means watching movies, reading and hanging out with her friends.
Mac is such a joy to be around – positive, friendly, good natured. I asked about the upbeat nature that I always see and she explained that in basketball she tries to be positive. In a team environment she does not want to take energy away from her teammates. She is just happy to be part of the team and part of the process.
She is also really exciting to watch on the court – her speed and her ball handling skills make her a real asset to this team.
We finished up our conversation talking about TV shows that we both watch but would never admit publicly that we watch…our little secret…don’t even ask.
Thanks to Alex D’Addese for the amazing photos…check out more of his work here.