This is my last student profile of Chapter Two of the In Their Shoes project. Siki. Where to start. I love this woman. I have heard many describe her as the heart of the team. She played her last year of eligibility this year and she is a force.
Siki’s parents are from Bosnia and she was born there. They moved to Serbia when she was 2 or 3 years old. Sixteen years ago the family moved to Canada when she was 6, she knew no English, and had never been to school. They settled in Kitchener and she was placed directly into school at the grade two level. Once Siki, whose given name is Silvana, started school she adapted really quickly and remembers learning the language in a few months. She has an older sister, and a younger sister who was born in Canada. Like many immigrant families, Siki’s parents relied on their children to help with translation of the language since their kids found it easier to learn English.
Siki always loved basketball. Her Dad used to play the game and she remembers him watching and talking about basketball when she was a kid. In grade 4 or 5 she started playing mostly with the boys. They used to push her around and get annoyed when she was better than them but now they laugh about it. She is still friends with these boys she started playing with. In grade 8 she was playing at a park with her Dad and a man there suggested that she try out for a rep team. He connected her with the coach and after the he saw her play he immediately put her on the team. She felt like the other girls on the rep team didn’t like her…she was the new girl, she was nervous…but she stayed because she just wanted to play and eventually things got better. This women is no quitter even at an early age.
She also played for her school starting in grade 10. In grade 11 she played for the grade 12 team and it was this year that the then Ryerson Women’s basketball coach saw her and recruited her. He came to a practice in KW because he was friends with her coach. She did a left hand layup on another player and that player was then given instruction on how to defend Siki. When Siki came back she changed it up, faked her out, did something different and the Ryerson coach was impressed, or as Siki describes it…”I could tell he was feeling me, you know?” She had some offers from a few schools in the US but she just didn’t want to leave her family by going so far away.
So she came to Ryerson. Unlike almost every other player I have talked to, Siki admitted to me that initially in her first year she didn’t like it at Ryerson. She told me that after her rough first year she was going to go home and transfer to Laurier. She called and they told her that she had missed the deadline by one day. If she had called the day before she would have left Ryerson and would not have won a provincial championship in her final year with the teammates she loves. There was clearly a reason that she missed that deadline.
She is not a quitter. She stuck it out and things got better. Then at the beginning of her second year Coach Carly arrived at Ryerson and she responded well to her coaching style. She has had some ups and downs. In her third year, in the pre-season, she broke her nose after being accidentally hit by an opponent. Her fourth year was much better and this past year she described as “the cherry on the cake!” The perfect final year for her and “her girls”, Kenny and Mariah.
I know that Siki will miss her team and putting on the Rams uniform. She admitted it will be hard to leave it all behind but she is proud that she was part of the team that left a legacy by winning the first OUA banner in school history. Siki will graduate next month with a degree in Public Health. She wants to explore the possibility of playing professional basketball overseas which involves as a first step getting an agent. She has been talking to a local guy and sending video, etc. She has Serbian citizenship so it would be easy for her to play for one of the professional teams there, especially since she speaks the language. She is actually going to Serbia for a month this summer to meet with some people.
I asked what she wants to do once there are no more opportunities with basketball. She is not really sure yet since there is such a variety of things that someone with a degree in public health could do. Maybe Public Health Inspector but there would be still work to do to get certified. She would need to do a 4 month practicum and then there are board exams, etc. She has to decide whether to do all of this before focusing on doing as much with her ball talent and skill as she can. Once the ball opportunities are over she says she probably wants to return to Toronto to settle here as it now feels like home.
Basketball has taught Siki not to be afraid, to take risks and to not fear change. Clearly it taught her well because, as I told Siki, I see her as someone who is fearless and does not care what anyone else thinks. She is going to be herself in the world no matter what. She agreed saying, “I’m just who I am, you love me, you hate me, I don’t care, that’s cool for you”. Who knew that these young women could teach me so much. I think Siki is my new spirit animal.
It is not a surprise that I started the student profiles on this blog this year with Keneca and ended with Siki. Early on we took a pre-season trip to Vancouver. One morning we climbed into vans to head out to do some sightseeing. I was in a van with Siki and Keneca and pretty quickly a screaming match erupted between them. I thought oh my they must hate each other. I had never heard people yell like this at each other unless they hated each or……they were sisters. What I came to learn within a few hours when they were laughing and dancing together is that these two are like sisters. Siki and Kenny were the only two on the team this year who have played for a full five years at Ryerson. They came here together and they will leave together. Watch this lovely video that a fellow student made about this pair.
I met Siki to do this interview, we talked and talked and ran out of time. So we scheduled another time and we ran out of time again. We talked about our trip to New Brunswick, next year’s team, the Raptors and Beyoncé and life and I want to keep talking to her. We’ll get our chance maybe when she gets back from Serbia. I hear songs come on the radio and I see Siki dancing in the team room before the game and it makes me happy. I only wish good things for her – the world is wide open for her and she has so much to yet experience. I can’t wait to see where it takes her. She will do great things. Legit.