Devenae was new to Ryerson this year and was a “red shirt” this season, which meant that because she transferred from another school she had to sit out for one year before she could resume playing. So there are no pictures of Dev playing but lots of her cheering on the team from the sidelines. Dev came to Ryerson after playing for 4 years at Laurentian University in Sudbury.
Dev was born in Toronto and lived in Newmarket for about 10 years and then moved around a lot – living in Whitby, and four different places in Barrie. She lived with her grandmother for a bit but mostly it has just been her and her Mom. She has played basketball as long as she can remember starting with getting a basketball as a gift. The first team she played on was in grade four. She was the only grade four girl to make the junior team at her school which was really a grade 5 and 6 team. She tried out and was selected for a rep team for both basketball and volleyball in grade six but could not join the teams because of the cost. It was too experience for her to pay for the uniforms and travel costs. She wasn’t able to join a rep team until grade 8 and played for her school and rep teams in Barrie throughout high school.
She talked to me about the experience of walking into the gym to play with her first rep team as a teenager and feeling really out of place initially because the other girls had been playing together for some time. She didn’t have as much experience and had not had the same level of coaching which was a bit intimidating. But one of the girls who first talked to her became and has been a best friend ever since. They even went on to play at Laurentian together. I asked her, as I have asked many of the women, “when did you know you were good at basketball?” She told me that in grade six she also was asked to play on the team with the grade 7 and 8 girls. She also improved every year in high school, winning MVP for basketball at her school every year after grade nine.
We talked about what it was like to adjust from being the best player in your school to going to university and being on a team of “best players”. She acknowledged that this was a challenge in her first year in university. She chose to go to Laurentian because of her interest in the forensic science program there. She considered playing in the states and posted some of her game video on line and got a few offers from some small colleges but decided that the programs were not what she wanted and she wasn’t really ready to go that far. After getting accepted to Laurentian she contacted the basketball coach and went to Sudbury for a visit, met the team and decided to accept the offer that day. She got an offer from the Carleton basketball coach as well, but it came after she had already accepted at Laurentian. She ended up playing for the team there for 4 years and has been a red shirt at Ryerson for one year. Dev will play her last year of university basketball eligibility with the Rams starting in September.
This was a challenging year for Dev because it was the first year since grade six that she hasn’t been able to play in a game. She practiced with the team every day so still got to be on the court but has not played in a game since she left Laurentian. She was a starter at Laurentian and played a lot. She said while challenging, it has also been rewarding because she has learned a great deal about how the Ryerson coaches operate and has been able to observe the team from the bench. Next year she will start on the team knowing everything about the program and the team culture. She said she has learned a great deal from Coach Carly and appreciates her coaching style. She has had a year to get used to things before playing as a Ram.
Dev is, like many of the other players, very quiet and shy. She said that basketball has really helped her gain confidence even off the court. It is the one place that she knows she is at her best and can put her confidence issues and other struggles aside. Dev has amazed me with her strength and courage given her willingness to be open about her mental health struggles. She has dealt with depression for most of her life and just recently became comfortable talking to people about it. I am impressed by her courage to tell her story. She did not speak about this during her time at Laurentian and while there, she sought out counselling support but did not find it particularly helpful initially. I asked her how she coped with her depression. She said that basketball helped her as did her love of music – she plays piano and guitar. Writing her thoughts and poetry helped her too but the depression even took away her motivation to do these things. The only thing she continued to do was play basketball.
Now she finds that helping other people with their struggles really helps her cope with her own depression. She is working on developing the confidence to give counselling another try but still struggles to accept that she has to deal with depression. Last year was the first time she openly talked about it and making a video for Bell Let’s Talk Day was a real turning point for her. You can see her video here (it includes a song and then about 3 minutes in, she shares her thoughts about the topic of mental illness). This video and “going public” with her own struggles helped her friends understand why she often seemed down even though everything seemed to be going so well for her on the surface.
Dev is taking computer science courses at Ryerson and commutes from Scarborough where she lives with her Mom, who is happy to have had her back home this year. She hopes to work in computer forensics including doing a graduate degree in the area if possible. She is also interested in coaching basketball and wants to do more volunteering in the community. She hasn’t always had the time because she has needed to work sometimes more than one job to make ends meet, but this is a woman with lots of plans. Continuing to work in her summer job, helping others in her community locally, getting into great shape for the last year of her basketball career, starting a video blog, and taking a community service trip to volunteer at an orphanage in Jamaica, are all on her to do list for this summer.
Dev is definitely quiet and shy at first but like most of us who are introverts she opens up easily when she feels comfortable, or in her case when inspired by the music that she loves. Here she is in the locker room with teammate Tash and physical therapist Michelle.
I am so proud of her and inspired by her strength in sharing her story of coping with depression and her determination to help others. She is very brave and I think she will inspire others to be confident and brave despite the challenges they face. I can’t wait to watch her in action on the court next year when the basketball season starts again.