Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year

I've definitely picked up a habit of writing while I'm on the road, or in this case, in the air. I'm on a flight back to Freddy right now. I had an amazing nine days at home. Time to rest, relax, and (I think) finally beat the virus that has been bugging me since a summer vacation in the Middle East. Everyone is heading back today or tomorrow in time to get back in the gym on the morning of the 2nd.

New Years is always a time for reflection, but more so it's about looking forward to the year ahead. Forgive the overused cliche, but it's time to ditch the bad habits of 2012 and focus our energies on the possibilities that lie in 2013. We are 40% of the way through our season, and for those who like math, I'm 89% of the way through my basketball career. The team received an email from Barb the other day. She asked two questions. The first: what are you going to change in the second half of our season? The second: what inspires you?

I can change to be better. I can push harder, eat better, lift more, and run faster. I can be more disciplined. I can hold myself and my teammates to a higher standard. I can find my voice when it helps the team and hold my tongue when it doesn't. I can rest my head on my pillow at the end of each night knowing that I did all I can to make us better.

Inspiration? I'm inspired by a note in my bucket that reminds me of my value. I'm inspired by the look on Caroline's face when she pushes out an extra rep that she didn't think she could do. I'm inspired by the advice from Cory, who always seems to say exactly what I need to hear. I'm inspired by my team, and motivated by the ticking clock. The younger girls on my team won't understand this, but this is my last chance to prove myself on my favourite field of battle. As a team, they'll get to do it again, and they have more chances if this season isn't all that we want it to be. But I won't be there, and neither will Mel, and neither will be some of the other girls.

I've played on enough teams to know that what we have now is something special. The chemistry on this team isn't something that you find everywhere. It's not something that most teams have.

So right now, as I sit bouncing my way through the air over Quebec with Tilly beside my and sitting in my favourite row (13 - of course), all I can think about is how grateful I am. I should probably be angry that we are 1-7, disappointed that my health has limited me. And on the bad, selfish, days I am. But today? On this day that celebrates renewal all I know is how lucky I am to be a part of a team that makes me smile and laugh every day.

If you want to see some of my favourite pictures of the team from 2012 click the jump ("Read More") below.

Monday, November 26, 2012

On Monkeys and Insanity

I need to start this post with a tremendous thank you for everyone's kind words regarding my last post. To everyone who tweeted, emailed, shared my post and to friends who told me that they enjoyed it - thank you very much.  I am touched, humbled, and flattered by your kindness.  Thank you for filling my bucket.

When I wrote my first post of the year I mentioned that I wouldn't be spending a lot of time summarizing our games. I did this for a few reasons.  For one, I am by no means a professional and my writing cannot compete with the journalists who cover us. For another, I'm far from impartial, and would really struggle if I had to talk about my opponents. The biggest reason is that after tough weekends I wouldn't really know what to say. How do you sit down at a computer and crank out 500 words on disappointment, frustration, or heartbreak? It would be hard to write and brutal to read. After two tough losses against Acadia I couldn't even write. After two more losses last weekend I just ignored the games and wrote about our locker room. But this week, after two very difficult losses I can't ignore it anymore. We are 0-6. Winless. In last place. There is a monkey on our back who is tightening his grip and refuses to be ignored any longer.

Everyday this monkey attacks our confidence. He tries to lure us away from self-discipline. He tries to steal our love for this game. And if we let him have his way we'll stop caring, we'll stop working, and we'll lose sight of our goals.

Let me be really clear: losing sucks. It sucks. It doesn't just make you sad, it's more complicated than that. You're angry, disappointed, ashamed, and embarrassed. You regret bad decisions and replay your mistakes over and over again in your head. It hurts, in your body, mind, and spirit. But this pain is useful. The pain of losing reminds us that the pain of workouts isn't nearly as bad as we think it is. The big problem is if we begin to tolerate losing, if the sting after the sixth loss doesn't hurt as much as the first. That's when you know you're in trouble, and that's when the monkey wins.

Coach Speedy tells us that 'insanity' can be defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Something clearly isn't working on our team. I mean it when I say that I love my team, but we just aren't getting the job done on the court. We've clearly hit a wall and we can either continue to bash our heads against it or we can get creative; we can change something up, and experiment with ways to go under, over, or around the wall.  I don't have the solution, but we all know that something isn't working.

For our supporters who are reading this, thank you for sticking with us while we are struggling. I have seen my team do great things and I believe we will get there again. If it is any consolation I want you to know that the sting of losing is still there, and the sixth loss didn't hurt any less than the first - it hurt exponentially more.

We know that our season isn't off to a great start but we aren't giving up. We will get creative and we will shake off this monkey. We are committed to fixing our mistakes and moving forward. This week we are clenching our jaws, pushing our limits, and raising our bar.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bucket Filling

“All day long, everyone in the whole wide world walks around carrying an invisible bucket. You can’t see it, but it’s there. … Your bucket has one purpose only.  Its purpose is to hold your good thoughts and good feelings about yourself. You feel very happy and good when you bucket is full and you feel very sad and lonely when your bucket is empty.” So begins a children’s book titled “Have You Filled a Bucket Today” by Carol McCloud.

The book continues on to explain how you fill other people’s buckets by giving them compliments, helping them, and telling them you love them.  It also cautions against having an empty bucket, when you are tempted to dip into someone else’s full bucket.  The book explains that we are all either ‘bucket fillers’ or ‘bucket dippers’. We can either be positive influences in the lives of other people or we can be negative influences.  

Now, if you’re still reading, please stay with me.  I promise I will explain why this is relevant to a university basketball team.  

I first encountered bucket filling last summer when I was helping run a workshop for teenage girls.  My boss’ wife brought the book and read it to the girls.  Although skeptical at first, I was amazed at how well a bunch of 13-16 year old girls responded.  We spent hours discussing high school pressures and the difficulties of being a teenager.  We concluded that life would be a lot easier if girls took time to fill each other’s buckets instead of constantly dipping into them.  The metaphor is simple, but really resonated with the girls, and with me.  I entered this season with a new perspective.  As a fifth year a lot of my role was going to involve telling teammates what to do, calling girls out when they do something wrong, and beating up on them in practice. When I do these things I’m doing my job and I’m helping my team, but I can’t just empty buckets.  I need to fill them as well.

In September I had a conversation with Barb, our mental skills coach, and explained how I was going to make a concerted effort to fill buckets.  Nothing big, nothing fancy, but I was going to try to remember to be positive with my teammates. Now, I need to take this chance to tell you a little bit about Barb.  I’ve tried to write about her before but I can never come up with the right words.  Barb is amazing.  She is compassionate and encouraging while still being exceptionally competitive.  If you need anything from her you just need to think about it and she magically makes it happen.  Anyway, I told her about my new focus on filling buckets and she ran with it, finding a tangible way to bring it to the team. 

A week later we each had a bucket in our lockers and pads of paper in the teamroom.  We started that day by leaving each person a note and we’ve continued on since then.  There aren’t any rules.  Notes can be signed or anonymous (although any that I get addressed to “grandma” I know came from a rookie). Sometimes I leave a teammate a note if I notice she’s been struggling, or if she’s really stepped up and deserves to be recognized.   The words I’ve found in bucket have been incredibly moving, supportive, and source of motivation. “Your caring attitude will be the reason that we succeed” said one note that I found in my bucket. “I would be lost at practice without you” said another.  After a particularly tough day I got one that said “I want you to remember how important you are to our team at all times”.

I think ‘buckets’ are a great tool for classrooms, teams, workplaces and families.  When my team feels good about ourselves we work harder, are more productive, and are definitely a lot nicer to be around.  The notes in our locker are amazing, but bucket filling can be simpler too.  Give someone a hug or a high five and tell them you appreciate them.

So if you’re still reading this do me a favour okay?  Fill someone’s bucket today. Recognize a co-worker for their hard word, give your parents a note with the top five reasons you love them, or thank a teammate for making you better today.  You’ll feel good, they’ll feel good, and you’ll both have a better day.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Last First Home Game

Mel Foster and I are both in our fifth year of eligibility.  No matter what happens this season we can’t play another one.  We’ve been talking about it a lot.  Everything that happens now is for the last time around – and we keep mentioning it.  “This is the last time we’ll go to the Athlete Compliance Meeting” “This is the last time we’ll play at the Helen Campbell Tourney” and so on.  Sometimes we get a little ridiculous – “This is the last time we’ll have to practice in The Pit on a Tuesday when it’s raining”. This weekend is a big one.  Tomorrow we open the regular season, at home, against Acadia.  It is our last first game, our last home opener.

Why is this milestone important? Well for the first time in eight months we’re playing in a game that matters.  A game where the result has a bigger ramification than our moods for the night.  Plus, we’re playing it at home which – trust me – is every athlete’s favourite place to play.  There is a fair bit of anticipation surrounding this weekend.  All that being said, it’s still November so there isn’t really a lot of pressure yet.  We’re chomping at the bit to get going but we’ve got five months to fix any mistakes. It’s the recipe for a great weekend. 

We’re prepared.  Like I said last week, we’ve gone though a long preseason and played some very tough competition.  We have learned a lot.  We rallied when we were behind, and we kept it together when we could have fallen apart. We won some games against some strong teams and we lost some as well.  We’ve lifted weights, we’ve run sprints, and done breakdown drills.  We’ve had team dinners (and breakfasts and lunches) and bonding activities.  We’ve watched video, had game-day shoots, and 36 practices.  And the best part? We’re only just getting started.     

Tip tomorrow and Saturday is at 6:00.  The men follow both nights at 8:00.  If you can’t make it to the Currie Centre you can find links to the webcast at


Monday, November 5, 2012

Preseason Wrap-Up

We went 1-2 on the weekend. We lost to Div I University of Maine on Thursday night and Div II Southern New Hampshire University on Friday. This afternoon we beat Div II Saint Anslem. Right now were on the long drive back to Freddy from Manchester, NH.

The team is split up into three vans. I'm in one with Tilly, Caroline, Dutchie, and Nisja, accompanied by Skip and Jennifer Speedy (Coach's parents). I'm not entirely sure where we are... somewhere in Maine. We just finished watching Slumdog Millionaire - a slight challenge with the subtitles on the van's teeny TVs.

The long drive is sort of symbolic; we're transitioning between two distinct parts of the year. We just played our last game of the preseason. When we get back to work this week it's for real. The last twelve games have been important steps for us to grow and gel as a team, but wins and losses didn't matter. We were out there focusing on getting better everyday, but we weren't looking at the scoreboard. Do we still need to get better everyday? Of course, but we have another job now, a job that is a whole lot less subjective.

It's sort of like midterms (which we are all a little focused on right now). Sometimes you have to write essays. Essays are subjective: you can get two different grades from two different profs with the same essay. Multiple choice tests are different, each question has a right answer and if you choose that one you get the question right. If you choose a different option you get the question wrong. No opinion, no analysis, no trying to talk your way towards a few marks when you don't know the right answer.

I'd be lying if I said we didn't care about wins and losses in the preseason. None of us would have gotten very far in competitive sports if we didn't like winning. But winning isn't the focus during preseason.

There are a few objectives in the preseason.

Early on we do fitness testing and get our butts kicked in workouts (I'll take this opportunity to brag about my PB beep test score). We shake off any summer rust and get some casual runs in.

Once practices get started we go pretty hard, and usually have some extra cardio and sprints thrown in at the end. The worst thing is when you think practice is over and then, surprise! Get on the sideline and get ready to run. Sometimes we try to sneak a peek at Speedy's practice plan so we know if it's coming (sorry Coach...).

When preseason tournaments get added the schedule gets a little busy but it helps get us settled into a routine. Tourneys give us a chance to play against defences that we don't use and, in some cases, girls who are faster, bigger, and stronger than we are.

Once this car ride is over the preseason is officially finished.

We got a lot from our preseason. We're smarter, tougher, and, okay right now we're a little tired, but we're energized. We're excited to get going with the next big step in our journey. The real challenge starts now. And we're ready.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Good Fight

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Those words are hung up in my locker, they're the first thing written on my "Inspirations" page in my play book, and they're what have kept me going over the last week.

Personally, I've had a tough few weeks. I've been pretty sick, I'm definitely run-down, and it doesn't take much to frustrate me these days. Some days I get so down that I'm not even sure that I want to play.  It takes a lot of mental prep to drag myself to practice.

I know this blog is about more than just me, but I think that everyone feels this way sometimes so I hope it's okay if I talk about myself for a bit.

The quote is a verse from the Bible (2 Timothy 4:7). I don't want to ostracize anyone so I'll leave my faith out of this, but I will to talk about that phrase from a basketball perspective.

I have fought the good fight.  I play hard and I'll do what is needed to win, but I play with integrity. I'm physical and I will hit you hard with a boxout but I will never do something dirty. I won't flop dramatically or pinch my check. As weird as it sounds I respect this game too much to play it that way. Basketball is about more than winning. Basketball is an outlet and an escape, it is a hospital, a church, and a therapist. Basketball has given me a lot, and I owe it some respect. The best way I can show that respect is to play with joy.

I have finished the race. I have five months left to be a basketball player. Five months.  That's not a ton of time.  I'm almost done being a VRed. I need to keep saying it so March doesn't sneak up on me. The last four and a half years have done a number on my body. Almost everything hurts and it's not just normal soreness anymore.  My wrists and elbows hurt, my ankles crack, and my hips pop. My body reminds me daily that it has put up with this sport for too long. Don't even get me started on my mental exhaustion. I'm not going to stop though, its the fourth quarter, the last few miles of the marathon, and I want more than anything to say in March that I was pushing my hardest right to the finish line.

I have kept the faith. I believe in a lot of things.  I believe that basketball is a part of who I am, but it's not all of who I am. I believe that nothing replaces hard work and industriousness. I believe that no one is harder on Tilly than she is on herself. I believe Mel when she says I contribute to the team, even though I don't play a lot of minutes. I don't have proof for any of these things.  I don't know know that they are true, but I believe them. I have faith in myself and my team. Do I question that faith? Yes, especially lately, but at the end of the day it's there. When I'm wavering and questioning I remind myself that there are reasons for my faith. That there are hours of work and dozens of teammates (past and present) behind me. They love me, value me, and put their faith in me - they can't all be wrong can they?

Every athlete hits roadblocks.  Sometimes they are little: getting a bad grade on an assignment, catching the flu, or spraining a finger. Sometimes they are major: serious injury or major personal problem. Regardless of how big or small they are I think that the method of getting over it is the same. I focus on what's important, I remember why I play by looking at the things I value about this game.  The friends I've made, the ways I've grown, and that incomparable feeling of achieving my goals. It isn't always easy but I have faith in myself, my team, and this game.  


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Two Big W's!

 Hello from Toronto!

This weekend we’re at the Darcel Wright Memorial Classic Tournament at Ryerson. Preseason tournaments are always a fun way to see teams from across the country and this weekend is no exception. We’re at the tournament with four OUA teams (Ryerson, Brock, Toronto, and McMaster), two CanadaWest teams (UBC and Saskatchewan), one RSEQ team (Laval), and one AUS team (us!).

We left Freddy on Thursday and flew directly to Toronto.  We arrived on time with no luggage drama (thank you Air Canada) and headed to the hotel.  Since we didn’t play until Friday afternoon we had the afternoon and evening off to eat and explore (read: shop) in downtown Toronto.

Friday morning we had a shoot and then headed straight to our pregame meal.  Afterwards we had time for a quick nap/relax time at the hotel and then off to our first game of the tourney.  We beat Brock 65-62 in a tough, physical game.  Some games have big highlights and “TSN Turning Points” but in other games you just keep grinding away – that was our game against Brock. Post game we showered and went for food then most of us went shopping (again…). 

With the spot in the semi-final today came an awesome 5:30 tip time so after our shooting practice this morning we got to go up the CN tower – a first time experience for most of us!  Tonight we played UBC and came out with a 76-60 win.  We took a lot away from the game.  We made a lot of mistakes.  We had whole stretches where we did things wrong. Sometimes our offense was stagnant, or we were getting beat off the dribble, we missed some boxouts, and so on.  We were far from perfect.  Despite all that we continued to take care of details.  We kept good spacing, we shot well from the outside, we denied looks into the post, and most importantly we kept our composure.  When the TBirds would string together a few baskets we fixed whatever was wrong without losing the things we were already doing right.

Tomorrow we play in the tournament finals against Saskatchewan.  The game was set for 4:00pm but that doesn’t jibe with our 7:00 flight so we’re playing early.  Tip is at 10:00am so on that note it’s off to bed for me (and for Dutchie and Fox too!) 

Friday, September 28, 2012

For My Coaches

This Saturday is Canada Basketball’s Basketball Coaches Day in Canada. It “is a national celebration of our Canadian basketball coaches and all the time, dedication and passion that they contribute to our sport through the year”.  Teams and organizations across the country have been encouraged to find ways to recognize their coaches for all that they give.  Well, UNB has given me this soapbox so you’d better bet I’m going to stand on it.

In 1997 my family moved from Toronto to Vancouver.  Vancouver’s temperate coastal climate means that soccer is a year-round sport.  I’ll never forget my first day of grade four.  Jen Luther walks up to me in the cloakroom and announces that I will be on her soccer team. In Toronto I had been into dance (I’m sure right now my teammates are rolling around on the ground laughing picturing eight-year-old Allie tap dancing in sequins and feathered headdresses – yes, I did that) but if soccer was going to help me make friends in a new city then sign me up!

Her dad, Doug Luther, was my first coach in organized sports. I played soccer for the North Shore Flyers for nine years.

A few years later I started playing basketball and I fell in love.  From Cleveland Elementary and Junior Grizzlies to Handsworth Secondary I had so many amazing coaches.

Although they probably didn’t know it they each held my confidence in their hands.  Had they hurt me I probably wouldn’t have kept playing.  As a kid and a teenager basketball made me happy and kept me out of trouble. The game has given me so much.  You’ll always hear players say that a sport has taught them skills and it has revealed their character.  I agree, to an extent, but the majority of the lessons I have learned have come from my coaches. 

Over the course of my post-secondary career I’ve had four head coaches.  It’s unusual to have so many coaches in such a short time but I consider myself blessed to have taken something special away from each of my seasons with them.

Norm Hann, Todd Jordan, Mike Woollard, and Jeff Speedy, this one is for you guys.

Norm was my first coach. He took a chance on me at a time in my life when not a lot of coaches would have.  He gave me the opportunity to do something that I didn’t think I was capable of and it radically changed my life.  At the end of my rookie season when he decided not to come back I was rattled, to say the least, but then he taught me the lesson that I needed the most:  that my path and potential are of my own determination.  A coach is there to lead, to guide and to teach but no matter what I need to control my own happiness.

The next year we hired Todd Jordan.  Todd and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye but he taught me a lot of lessons that I needed to learn and that still contribute to making me the teammate that I am.  Todd introduced to me weight training and terrible, terrible, soccer field sprints.  Todd taught me the importance of sacrificing myself for the team and how to keep my mouth shut even when I wanted to say something.  He taught me that no one person is more important that what we are as a team.

Mike treated me like an adult.  He taught me that my opinions have value and to trust my gut.  He let what I said have an impact on how he ran the team, which was a lot of pressure but a challenge that I enjoyed.  Mike had an amazing faith in our team and program, a lesson that I still draw on today.

Now I'm heading into my second season with Coach Speedy. The thing that impresses me the most about Coach Speedy is how much he cares about all of us, and it’s not superficial.  He doesn’t just keep tabs on us because he wants to win games.  If someone is going through a tough time we all know that we can rely on him for whatever we need.  He’s empathetic and caring and I think sometimes we take that for granted.  Plus, Speedy puts so much work into the community and we are expected to do the same.  Yes, the players look good because we do it, but it’s Coach Speedy’s initiative that is behind all of it.  Speedy has taught me that no matter what I have going on there is always time in my day to take on helping someone else.  Be it with a teammate who is struggling with the offense or a grade 4 team that needs a guest coach for a practice.  Speedy teaches us every day to respect each other and to be leaders in our community.

Cory Russell and Dan Goggin are our current assistant coaches. I haven’t forgotten about them but I’m already tearing up and I’ve written too much so I need to wrap this up.  I’ll get to them another week.  

A blog post doesn’t even begin to say the thank yous that I owe those four men.  No matter what I do I know I won’t ever be able to pay them back.  I think that, as players, we do the only thing we can – we pay it forward.  We coach camps and clinics with the VReds program and when we’re older (and have a bit of time) we’ll coach our own teams.  When the day comes that I’m at the helm of my own team I’ll know that I’ve learned from the best. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meet The Girls

We’ve had a good week.  Last weekend we got to participate in the Terry Fox Run, which was fun right from the Zumba warm up until we got to eat bananas at the finish line.  We had a meeting with Barb, our mental skills coach, where we got a chance to talk about how we’re feeling and how we’re each going to contribute to team success.  We had practices Monday and Tuesday and then yesterday got to play an intrasquad game.  The intrasquad game is basically just a scrimmage with real refs and score clock. Sitting down to stretch after the game Speedy asked if we’d had fun.  We were messy, and our offense definitely needs some work, but the obvious answer was “yeah!” Despite some frustrations  it was still so fun to get a good run in with all the girls.  Today we were back to regular practice.  This weekend we’ve got some practices, two team dinners and a team-bonding event on Sunday night.  Lots to look forward to this weekend and then it’s four more days of practice before we open the Helen Campbell Tournament at home against UQUAM next Friday.        

I am blessed beyond blessed to get to spend every day with my team and I want to introduce each one of them to you.  This could get a little long but each girl deserves a real intro. 

In rough age/seniority order, here we go:

Laura Fowler, #10 – Moncton, NB, (B.Ba.) Lau is back this year after her (second) ACL surgery and we could not be happier to have her back.  She is a great player and an amazing person to be on the floor with.  I want to be a better player when I’m on the floor with her because I want her to want to play with me.  I have so much respect for her and her work ethic.

Melissa Foster, #14 – Moncton, NB, (B.Sc.)  Mel is the consummate teammate.  She knows what to say when it needs to be said and she knows when not to say anything.  She is incredibly supportive, understanding, empathetic and always up for a cup of tea and a chat.  I continue to learn from her every day.

Sam Kaminsky, #5 – Moncton, NB, (B.Sc.) Sam is tough and definitely not someone to mess with.  Her loyalty is unwavering and I’m always glad she is on my team and not playing for an opponent.  I love that Sam and I can beat up on each other every day and then walk into the locker room joking and still being friends.

Claire Colborne, #15 – Calgary, AB, (B.RSS.)  I could write whole entries about Claire’s abilities.  She is undisputedly talented.  She is also tough, competitive, and getting better all the time.  As tough as she is on the court she is kind, caring, and fiercely loyal off the court so while she is busy taking care of business she is also taking care us. 

Tilly Ettinger, #11 – Calgary, AB, (B.Kin.)  The thing I value most about Tilly is how dependable she is.  She is solid and reliable, both on the court and off.  You always know what you’re going to get with her.  She knows how to distribute the ball and sees the floor really well.  She also knows how to balance ball with the other important things in her life and is a great person to talk to when you need someone to put things into perspective.

Colleen Daly, # - Ancaster, ON, (B.RSS.) Colleen is very enthusiastic.   I’ve never heard anyone come up with an idea that Coll didn’t want to be a part of.  She’s got a beautiful shot with a ridiculously quick release but also knows how to distribute the ball.         

Rachel Cleary, #20 – Brantford, ON (B.A.) Rachel is undersized for a post player but what she lacks in height she makes up for in intensity and work ethic.  She knows how to use her body to get position and gain space.   

Katelynn “Dutchie” Carver, #21, Bridgewater, NS (B.A.) Dutchie is so fun to be around.  She can find humour in the most ridiculous things and it helps keep a really good balance.  But don’t get me wrong, she can get feisty too.  I know I can call her, 24 hours a day, and she’ll be there ready to help no matter what needs to be done.    

Awo Farah, Ottawa, ON (B.A) Awo is transferring from the University of Ottawa.  We’re all really glad she’s here.  She is crazy athletic.  Her attitude is incredibly positive and she has really cool insight. I’m already excited to hear what she has to say during tough half-time chats.   

Karlen Majcher #8, Calgary, AB, (B.BA) Karlen is coming to UNB from a college in Alberta so even though she’s a rookie in our program she already has an understanding of the game.  She has a good little floater and might be the only player who hasn’t gotten blocked by Katelyn yet. 

Laura Fox #9, Halifax, NS, (B.Sc) Fox is 18 going on 30. She has confidence and character that is pretty unusual for a first year player and her TV and music taste make her sound like she was born in the 80s.  She is very athletic and knows how to dig deep in workouts.   

Nisja Bass #6 Los Angeles, CA, (B.BA.) Nisja came to Freddy all the way from California.  Nisja has already been battling an injury but she is keeping a smile on her face while doing weird rehab exercises during practice.   Yesterday she was in boots, sweats, a hoodie, coat, and toque.  It might be a long winter for her. 

Chelsey Collette, #12, Rothesay, NB, (B.Sc) Although I’ve only known her for a few weeks one of the things that already stands out to me about Chelsey is how sincere she is.  If she has something nice to say she’ll come right out and say it.  Dishing out “warm fuzzies” is going to build really nicely into the culture of our program.  She gets it.   

Caroline Healy #7, Bedford, NS (B.RSS) Caroline works really hard.  She listens well and is committed to getting better.  I’m really glad I’ve been given the opportunity to play with her this year.  She is keen, committed, and really funny.  I think she is going to have an amazing five years at UNB.

Katelyn Mangold #22 Peterborough, ON (B.A.) I think Katelyn had eight blocks in our first scrimmage.  Katelyn isn’t afraid of making mistakes so she often ends up saying something hilarious when Speedy asks a tough question but she is also an incredibly quick learner.  She is my partner for individual workouts this semester and I’m really looking forward to having her beat up on me every day.   

There we are, sixteen strong and getting stronger every day.  We have incredible coaches and support staff, but I’ll get to them another time!



Thursday, September 13, 2012

Round Two

Girls, Boys, Parents, Fans, People of the Blogosphere, 

I have a very important announcement to make:  I’m back.

My name is Allie Chalke and I’m a senior for the VReds.  I played my first three years in BC so although I’m only in my second year at UNB I’m in my final year of ball.  I expect a decent amount of my posts and ramblings over the next six months will relate to my fleeting time left as a student athlete so I won’t get into that now, but this is your warning, it’s coming. 

I kept this blog through the second half of last season and I’ve been asked to do it again this year.  It’s a chance for the people who support us to get a little insight into what our lives are like.  I’ll post every week about what we've been up to and how we’re feeling heading into the weekend.  For the most part, I won’t talk about what happened in our games, I’ll leave that up to the professionals at the Gleaner, the Brunswickan, and the papers in cities we visit.  Instead, I’m going to try to bring you along for the ride with us: in the locker room, the weight room, the gym, and on the bus.  I can’t promise it will always be glamorous because there isn’t a lot of glamour in 12-hour bus rides, ice baths, and sprained fingers.  That being said, I love being a VRed and some of my favourite parts are the subtleties.  I love chatting with teammates on the bus, I love the way my body feels after ten minutes in freezing water, and each taped up injury is a reminder of why we fight so hard every day.  I’ll do my best to capture those things for you. 

If you’re an athlete you probably already have an idea of what I’m talking about.  You probably understand the willingness to sacrifice sleep, a social life, and your body for a sport.  You’ll (hopefully) read and nod along thinking “yeah, I get that”.

For those of you who aren’t (and to all my extend family who I’m sure received an email link from my Dad…) I’ll do my best to explain to oddities and obscurities of film sessions, scouts, team pre-game meals, and other stuff that we do.   

So whether you’re a future VRed, an alumnus, a friend, supporter, booster, family member, or anything else, consider this an official invitation to come along with us, there’s always room for one more.      

I would absolutely love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment on any post or send me an email at    


Monday, February 27, 2012

The End.

I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago after his season ended. I asked him if we were crazy for putting so much of our happiness and mental wellbeing into a game. He replied that yes, it is crazy, but we can’t help it because that’s just who we are.

In some ways, it seems totally surreal. Seven months ago did I really pack up my life and move across the country to play in a gym I’d never seen with a bunch girls I hadn’t met? In the next week or two my last bruises will disappear and I won’t have anything left to show that the season happened.

Our season ended on Saturday afternoon in the Dalplex. We needed to win by 17 to make playoffs and I think we focused too much on that. Mentally, we started the game like the score was 17-0, instead of just going out there and focusing on each of us doing the things we needed to do. But, the point Coach Speedy made after the game was that two weeks ago we were written off for dead, and people said that we didn’t stand a chance. We won two straight so that our last game mattered the most. It ended the best way it could have: in our hands, by our own will, with no chance to say “if only…”.

There are all kinds of things I won’t forget about this season. Like the time Speedy bet Alicia $10 that she couldn’t carry a Happy Meal box as a purse for an entire roadtrip. Or when we were in Moncton and Claire, Katelynn, and I showed up at a gym prepared to teach a gym class a few basketball drills, only to find the bleachers filled with 300 students ready to hear a 45-minute presentation on healthy eating, fitness and goal setting. I won’t forget the look on Emma’s face at her Seniors’ Night, the sound of Jord’s cackle on the bus, or Meg’s ability to say exactly what we needed to hear at halftime.

We’ll take a couple of weeks off to rest and then we will back in the gym doing work. An athlete’s most important weapon is her insatiable desire to be better tomorrow than she was today. Maybe I don’t have anything physical to show for the season, but I’m older, wiser, and stronger right now than I was in August. And tomorrow, I’ll be stronger than I am today.

So I’m signing off. Thank you all for coming on this journey with us, it has been so much fun putting my thoughts and feelings into words and getting to share them with you.



Mel and Dani

Due to some technical difficulties I wasn't able to post these player interviews last week, so here they are:

Melissa Foster
Moncton, NB

Do you have any nicknames?: DJ Melly Mel - because I am usually choosing the music on team road trips!

What's the toughest part of being a student-athlete?: Having to perform on a daily basis at an elite level, even on days when you are sick and/or really tired!

Why do you wear #14? It was the first number I got when I started playing basketball in grade 9. I became attached and have kept it ever since!

What is your pregame routine? Relax, cook my favourite pre-game meal (chicken, sweet potatoes, veggies!), listen to some music... LOUD music, and visualize, and then enjoy a nice walk to the gym when we are at home!

Danielle Scime
Hamilton, ON

Do you have any nicknames?: My one nickname I received when I came to NB was Swag. A couple of guys on the men's team gave it to me and it has stuck ever since. They said it was because of the way I held myself and I played with swag on the court.

What is the toughest part of being a student-athlete? The toughest part of being a student athlete is remaining injury free. Although you would think that being injured would allow you to attend more classes it can actually be the opposite. I can't even count the number of days I missed because I put my back out and couldn't get out of bed.

Do you have any superstitions? I don't have any superstitions but I do have a weird good luck thing. I think it gives you great luck if you get pooped on by a bird at any time!

Whats the best advice you've ever gotten from a coach? That everything happens for a reason. A lot of times in my athletic career there have been time when I should have made a team or won a game but fate chose the opposite. Although these were not some of the happiest times they all happened for a reason, sometimes to learn and sometimes to motivate me to go forward or do what is right.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Heading to the DalPlex

I’ve been sitting at my computer for fifteen minutes watching the cursor blink at me. To be honest, I don’t know what to say right now.

Tonight we had what could be our last practice. It didn’t occur to me until there were about twenty minutes left and Meg and I were standing on the sideline, the subs for opposite teams. “I just realized this could be your last practice…like, ever”. Meg looked at me, then back at the drill. “Yup” she answered, “it could”. It could, but it doesn’t have to be.

Last weekend we had a four-point game against St. Mary’s and we won 76-54. It was one of those games where everything just fell into place. We weren’t perfect, but we did the little things right; we took care of the hustle plays and everything else worked itself out. Meg and Emma were both great, playing for the last time in the Currie Centre.

Dalhousie lost both of their games to Cape Breton. In the standings, they have 20 points and we have 16. Each game this weekend is worth 2 points. We need to win both of them, but just winning isn’t enough. We need to win both games by a combined total of 26 points. This is because of the AUS tie-break rule that states that if two teams are tied in the standings and also tied in their head-to-head (ie: they each beat each other the same number of times) then the next tie-break is head-to-head point differential. Since a few weeks ago Dal beat us by a combined total of 25 points we need to beat them by more than that.

And practice tonight? It didn’t feel like it was the last one. It feels like we still have work to do. It feels like we’re going to be back in there on Monday preparing for our next game. It doesn’t feel like it could be almost over.

The standings give us hope and last weekend we found reason to believe. So, there is only one thing left to do. We tighten our laces, tape up our bruised bodies, and we fight. Last weekend I listed a whole bunch of reasons to fight, and those are all still true, but mostly this weekend we fight because it’s the only thing left to do.

Tomorrow's game is at 6:00 and Saturday's is at 1:00. Both are webcast and, as always, you can get all the details at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

St. Mary's At Home

After our losses last weekend the Brunswickan announced that we “officially eliminated from playoff contention”. My apologies to the Bruns, but that’s not the case, so let me break it down for all of you who aren’t scoreboard watching.

In the AUS every team plays each team in the conference for games that total 8 points in the standings. We can play a team twice in games that are worth 4 points each (like when we played Memorial in November), or we can play a team four times in games that are each worth 2 points (like the four games we have against Dalhousie this month).

Acadia, St. Mary’s, Cape Breton, and Memorial have locked playoffs spots. St. FX has one locked because they are hosting. That leaves one spot up for grabs. UPEI can’t make it because they only have 6 points. So it is down to Dal or us.

Right now we have 12 points and Dal has 20. Our game against St. Mary’s this weekend is a four-point game. Dalhousie has two two-point games against Cape Breton. If we beat St. Mary’s and Cape Breton sweeps Dal then we will have 16 points, and Dal will still have 20. Then, we head to Dalhousie for our last two games of the season. If we sweep them then we will have 20 points, and so will they, so it will come down to a tie-breaker. The first tie-breaker is head-to-head (where we will be tied again) and then it goes to point differential.

Is it going to be easy? No. In fact, Dalhousie could beat Cape Breton and it would totally be out of our hands. It is, however, possible, and that makes a big difference. We walk into the gym every day knowing our dream is still alive and that we still have something to work for.

We have so much to fight for this weekend. We’re celebrating Emma and Meg’s last home games. We have great supporters and fans that do so much for us. We have teammates who aren’t able to dress because they’ve been hurt while doing work for us. And we have each other. We have every reason to fight to win, but I think we’re beyond any “rah-rah” speeches to get us jacked up to win. We each need to look inside ourselves and decide if we are willing to put it all on the line. Win or go home. Take no prisoners. Leave it all on the floor. Take your pick of sports clich├ęs because no matter how you phrase it the fact of the matter is still the same – it’s now or never.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Believe in Red

I used to have a professor (who shall remain nameless) who would ask questions that seemed harmless but were actually nearly impossible to answer. They all started the same way: “What is *dramatic pause*…” and then he’d throw in a word. What is language? What is development? What is morality? You’d sit there stammering for a minute because you knew you were supposed to know the answer, but the simplicity and size of the question stumped you. Eventually, you’d throw out some semblance of a definition that started with an “umm…” and finished with enough upspeak to make it clear that you had no idea what you were talking about.

The team is into gut-check time right now, and a topic that keeps coming up is belief. And whenever we talk about it I can hear Dr. Nameless in my head: “What is belief?”

Okay, well let’s start with the basics. Belief is a psychological state of being where a person holds something to be true. Sure, that makes sense, but I could define spherical trigonometry for you, but that doesn’t mean I actually know how to do it.

As a team, we’ve talked about it quite a bit. Our mental skills coach, Barb Ramsay, brings it up a lot. For a team to succeed they need to believe in themselves and each other. But it’s way easier said than done. Barb told me that when I’m having a day with low self-confidence to add up all the hours that I’ve invested into the game, and to focus on that.

So to my team I say: do you remember that day we had to do the tower run along Dundonald? Do you remember preseason legs days with Sean that hurt so badly we were seeing spots? Do you remember the stuff we’ve learned over 72 practices and who knows how many shoots, individuals, video sessions and lift days? Think about those hours, those hours combined with all the years before that we played. Think about each shot you took (including the ones that day it took you 20 minutes to figure out how to set up The Gun).

Have you ever seen Utah State’s “I Believe” chant that their fans do? If not watch it right now here. There are 5000 people who believe in a team. 5000 people who jump up and down and yell that their team is going to kick the crap out of whatever team was foolish enough to walk into their gym. That’s a belief that is entrenched, that is generations old, but it probably started with one guy who just said that he believed.

Muhammad Ali said “It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.” He said believed, he said faith, but he also said afraid. Fear is big for athletes. Fear is what makes me work hard: fear that the season will end and I’ll wish I had done something differently. Early in the season fear is far away but it’s February and I can feel the fear coming. I’m an athlete, and I’m supposed to be tough, so maybe I shouldn’t say that, but it’s true.

What Ali finishes with though, is that his belief in himself was more powerful than the fear. And this is a guy who went a decade without losing a fight, so let’s give him a bit of credit. So while fear is coming for me in a few weeks, right now the belief in my team is more powerful than any fear.

I don’t have a marching band and 5,000 fans behind me right now (okay, I’m sitting at Tilly’s and my kitchen table) and I have lost a game or two in the last ten years, but I know enough about the girls on my team to say that I believe in us. Dalhousie, I hope you’re ready because you’re in for a fight tomorrow night.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Shoot For The Cure

The minute I walked into the Currie Centre for the first time I had 15 new friends. That’s just the way it works on a team. I don’t get along with all of them all of the time, but we were brought together by something bigger than any one of us. Team. It’s just one of those things that binds people on a deeper level. It brings together people who might otherwise never be friends and shows them where they have common ground.

There are other things that connect us on a much bigger scale, things that, unlike my team, don’t give me warm feelings. Cancer. It’s touched every single person on my team. We’ve all been affected by it, but we’re not unusual. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 487 people are diagnosed with some form of cancer on an average day.

As I write this I can’t help but think of the people who I’ve lost, and the pain I’ve seen others go through. Much like a team, the hardships faced when dealing with illness bind people together.

Over the course of the season every women’s basketball team in the CIS hosts Shoot for the Cure in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Forty-three teams thread pink laces through the eyes of their Pro-Models, pull pink socks up to their knees and tie their braids with pink elastics. We sell t-shirts and raffle tickets, we volunteer our time and cut our hair. We allow the pain that has brought us together to inspire us to be better. Last year, the CIS Women’s Basketball Coaches Association presented a cheque for $104,763 to the CBCF. Every dollar donated was a step towards research that could change people’s lives.

This year, we’re going all out. Kristen Johnson, our athletic therapist, and Tilly Ettinger, are each cutting their hair and donating it to make wigs for people fighting cancer. Coach Speedy (whose hair isn’t quite long enough for a wig) is dying his pink. There are some awesome raffle prizes, 50/50 draws, and sweet pink VReds gear for sale. Oh yeah, and we also get to go head-to-head against St.FX who gave us two great games earlier this season. The Currie Centre doesn’t know what’s coming.

And why do we do this? Because, right now, someone is being told by their doctor that they have a long road ahead. We all do things we don’t want to do. We put our noses to the grindstone and we go to work, but some battles are bigger than others. Some battles can’t be fought alone. And those are the ones where a team becomes more than five, more than fifteen. Those are the ones where a team becomes a community. No one wants to watch a 40-point blowout, but right now cancer is kicking our butts. So join us. Come out this weekend and help us bring together our community in joy and celebration of life and in of the beauty of a fair battle.

For more details and the times when everything is going down go to


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Road to The Cape

As a write this we’re on the road. We’re travelling to Sydney, NS for a double header against Cape Breton. I’ve never done the drive, but apparently it's about 9 hours. When we get there it will be the farthest East I’ve ever been.

We spend a lot of time on the bus. Sometimes we do homework (although probably not as much as we should). We sleep (although probably more than we should). We play cards, we chat, and we pester people who are trying to sleep.

A lot of the girls don’t like the bus and I can understand why. It probably has something to do with how frustrating it is to try to do homework without a desk. Or maybe it’s the fact that a lot of us have to sit sideways with our legs in the aisle because we don’t fit. Or, just maybe, it’s how hard it is to sleep when 9 people are playing Mafia, 14 people are laughing at some joke Will Farrell made and your neck is cranked at a weird angle, propped up on a backpack and three sweaters.

To be honest though, I like bus trips. Sitting still isn’t easy, but I think it’s one of the most underrated bonding experiences. I’ve learned a lot about my coaches and teammates while we’re on the road. And beyond that, it’s something that I used to hear about from university players when I was younger, an experience that, if it were mine, would make me realize that my hard work had paid off and that I really was playing on a Varsity team. It’s sort of like seeing my nameplate on my locker except somehow more tangible. I guess it’s because nothing makes you more aware of life and the passing of time than when it crawls slowly through a snowstorm somewhere between Sackville and Truro.

Our trips are different. We’ve been to Halifax, Montreal, Charlottetown and Antigonish. We’ve had busses with plugs for laptops and even some with wi-fi. The bus we’re on right now has skylights and hardwood floors. We’ve had drivers who stop only once in ten hours and ones who need coffee every 120kms. However, here are some things you can always count on. Emma always sits on the left side, second row from the back, Mel gets distracted easily no matter how many times she says “this trip I’m going to be on the homework train”, and that between the thirty of us we will never all agree on a movie.

Tomorrow we face off against Cape Breton. We played them in November and split. They’re a tough team, and it’s going to be physical. Plus, we both like to run so it’s going to be a fast one – but those are the best kind.

Tipoff tomorrow night is at 6:00 - go to for a link to the webcast


Thursday, January 19, 2012


There is something very comforting about having a routine.
It’s one of the reasons teams love home games so much. You can wake up in your own bed, have your favourite breakfast and then shoot in you
r own gym. You go home, have a nap, and cook a perfect pre-game meal. We listen to music, visualize and go over our scouts. We get taped in our taping room. We all have our own quirks, of course, like Meg mentioned last week she bakes, I shower and straighten my hair, Jordanne makes a particular smoothie. Some of us do things to jack ourselves up; others do things to calm themselves down. Whatever our routine, it’s well practiced and it’s chosen because it works.

Why am I’m bringing this up now? Because we have routines in our daily lives too; I’m starting to find my groove this semester, and I like it. Class and practice (and weights, cardio, individuals, film, and mental skills sessions) are the nonnegotiables. We fit everything else in wherever there is space. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t a lot of room, so our homework sessions become routine as well. The end result is a week that looks a lot like the one before and after it. It’s not that there is no change or surprises – because those do happen – but everything just gets comfortable. Early in the semester I find myself checking my schedule and texting teammates all the time (“What time is practice tomorrow?” Do we have weights today?”). A few weeks in and I’m relaxed. Each thing has its place in my schedule and I’m at ease.

I should also mention that as much as I love our home games (for a whole bunch of reasons other than just my routine) I really am enjoying our road trips. I’m getting to see a whole new part of Canada that I’d never been to before (I get to go across the Confederation Bridge tomorrow!) but nothing compares to playing at home.

This week’s player profiles are two rookie guards: Sam Wilson and Colleen Daly.

Sam Wilson


Woodstock, NB

Arts and Science

What's the toughest part of being a student-athlete? The toughest part about being a student athlete is managing your time. By time we have our individuals, practices, weights and games you’re exhausted and it is hard to have ambition to do work and it is hard finding time to see your friends outside of basketball because we are always so busy and you need to be fully committed to your team all the time. What are you most looking forward to this season? I think we have improved a lot lately and I am really looking forward to the few games and seeing how the rest of the year plays out because we are ready to win games. We are capable of a lot more then what we have shown at the beginning of the year and I hope our hard work pays off in the last part of the season.

Why do you wear #6? I didn't get to choose my number this year. But hopefully next year I’ll be able to get the number I want. I have always been #7 I have worn it almost every single year since I started playing basketball. All the other sports that I have played I wore that number and now my little sister wears it for basketball and my little brother wears it. Everyone in my family has started to wear it even my little cousins because I am the oldest on both sides for grandchildren.

Do you have any superstitions? I am a bit superstitious about eating less than two hours before the game. I think that I will play bad if I do.

Colleen Daly


Ancaster, ON

Recreation and Sport Studies

What's your best memory (so far) of being a VRed? My best memory is when we travelled to BC for a pre season tournament, it was great to travel across the country to play basketball.
What's the toughest part of being a student-athlete? The toughest part of being a student athlete is having to balance school and basketball. It is extremely important for athletes to manage our time wisely if we want to succeed on the court and in the classroom.
What's the best advice you've ever received from a coach? The best advice I have ever received from a coach is that you get as much out of things as you put into them. I have tried to use this advice for not only basketball but also everyday life.
Why do you wear #22? I wear number 22 because it was given to me when I came to UNB. I am planning on sticking with this number for the rest of my career here at school.

Off to PEI tomorrow for one game against UPEI! I'll let you know how it goes.


(Photos by my little sister, Bethan Chalke)