As the 2nd chapter of my In Their Shoes Project wraps up I am assessing what still needs to be done since the practices and games ended officially, at least for me, yesterday. There are still some student profiles to write and I will keep at it over the next month until I have shared each of their stories. There is still an Athletic Banquet in early April. I attend this banquet every year as the Vice Provost, Students, sit at a VIP table and present an award…it is one of the many official events that I have in my calendar that I must attend annually. This year will be very different as I attend with my team to celebrate a year together.
Right now we are sitting in a lounge at a hotel in New Brunswick after checking out of our rooms. We were waiting to go to the airport but we have just been informed that because of the snow storm raging outside our 6:35pm. flight has been cancelled. No word yet on plan B. We have been here for a week.
This team accomplished something that no team at Ryerson has ever accomplished. They are officially one of the top two women’s basketball teams in the country bringing home a silver medal from the national championship.
We arrived late Tuesday last week in time to fit in a practice before checking into the hotel. Each team in the tournament was assigned a Little Sister team from the local area and ours was the Woodstock, NB Mini A Thunder. They had decorated our team room in Rams colours and left each of the players a gift basket.
The Rams practiced and prepped on Wednesday, and faced the University of Regina on Thursday in the quarter final. We led the whole game even though in the end they won by just 3 points with a final score of 73-70. A group of about 15 Ryerson students came to New Brunswick as well to form what we call the Ram Pac…painted, dressed up, with energy, noise makers and all the spirit and support any team could hope for…definitely an indication of how much our university community has embraced this team and supported their success.
We had Friday off from games but there was still practice, team meetings, school work, rest and therapy on the schedule. Our semi-final game was scheduled for Saturday afternoon against the number one seed McGill University. We dominated that game and easily defeated McGill with a score of 87-72. This was historic not only for this program but for Ryerson University, where no team has ever appeared in a National Championship final before. We knew at this point no matter what happened this team was the most successful team in the history of Ryerson University. Not only had they joined the Men’s Basketball team in winning the school’s first ever provincial championship banners this year but they would bring home the gold or silver medal which no team has done before.
But we wanted gold. The coaches and players have prepared and worked hard all year to reach their goal which was to bring home a provincial championship and a national championship. After the win against McGill and some dinner, while everyone of our supporters were still celebrating, we were back in the gym on Saturday night preparing for the final game against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
We went to the gym on Saturday morning at 11:30 for the 1 pm. game. Parents of some of our players were there. Some Ryerson Student Affairs staff supporters were there. The Ram Pac was there. Our little sister team and their parents were there. The media was there.
Despite a hard fought battle and periods in the game when it looked like we would be able to achieve the ultimate goal, Saskatchewan ended up pulling ahead by two many points in the last minutes of the game and took the National Championship. This was really hard. Such overwhelming disappointment on the faces of these women who I have come to love and respect so very much. We stood silently as the MVP and Coach of the Huskies were interviewed and the team was presented with the trophy and banner. Even though we had earned a silver medal and achieved a better result than any team in Ryerson history there was no celebrating…only heartbreak. In the team room after the game there were many tears. Tears associated with mourning the loss of their dream and what they had worked for all year. Tears for the few players who had just played their last game as a Ryerson Rams in their last year of eligibility. Tears from an assistant coach who had played for the Rams as a student, and had only even hoped during that time to make the playoffs, as she thanked this team for giving her the experience of winning a provincial title and competing at a national championship. Tears from a head coach who expressed her admiration and pride in these young women and what they had accomplished this season and who they have become as people. And tears welling up in my eyes now as I write this, feeling so fortunate to have been able to have a part in this experience with them.
Within a few hours the tears were gone and we went out for dinner. The tone was only joyous and celebratory as the team, coaches, parents, student affairs staff and Ram Pac all gathered in the same restaurant on a Sunday night in Frederiction. We all wore our medals proudly.
In the team room after the game Coach Carly told the team that they won a provincial championship and a national silver medal together and as a result they are bonded for life in this shared experience. I too will always know each and every one of these players and as I see them compete next year, graduate, land their dream jobs, commit to life partners, become parents, etc….I will always know them, as they continue with their studies, by running into them unexpectedly, or ongoing connections through social media…I will always know them.
We are bonded for life.