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