In high school I played every sport I could; basketball, volleyball, soccer, badminton, track and field and rugby, while still playing soccer and basketball outside of school. It was amazing, I would attend classes with all my friends and teammates while my evenings were filled with sports. I loved it.
When I began high school I was still a pretty awkward mover. I was later described as “spastic but could jump through the roof “. I had athleticism but it didn’t appear that way until I was finished growing about halfway through high school, until then I was slightly uncoordinated.
As my grade 10 year came to a close one of my coaches Ann Weber approached me about my thoughts about playing varsity basketball in University. I hadn’t even considered it because I didn’t think I was near good enough to be considered for varsity. But she planted the thought in my head and I began to work even harder as I made it a goal of mine. Ann was an assistant coach with the Laurier team and they hosted a Top 60 Camp for elite level female basketball players in Ontario. The camp had many University coaches attend every year to get a chance to coach and recruit players. The athletes that attended the camp got exposure to coaches from across the country and it was my first year at this camp that I met my future University coach, Doug Partridge.
In the fall of grade 12, I got a call from Doug expressing his interest in having me play for him at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) the following year. That fall I watched the MUN Sea~Hawks when they came to a tournament in Ontario. I also went on a recruiting trip to check out the campus, the team and what it might be like to live in Newfoundland. I got a good feeling when I was there and decided to commit.
I moved to St. John’s in August of 2008 to take Kinesiology at Memorial University and play basketball for the Sea~Hawks.
We finished that season losing in the semi-finals of playoffs, and it was a terrible game. Then we had our year end meeting. My coach used to do this thing where he would rank us in terms of stats that he had collected throughout the year. I was ranked dead last on the team. Last. It was awful and, as it turns out, incredibly motivating. I went home that summer and worked harder than I’d ever worked. I got a summer job and I was constantly in the gym, weight training, shooting and scrimmaging with the local university teams. I was determined to make my team better in my second year.
I was a different player when I went back to St. John’s that next fall for my second year. It was obvious that I had put in the work that summer and it paid off during preseason that year, I got my first starting opportunity. I made the most of it and ended up starting for the rest of my career. This drive to always be improving, continued to fuel me throughout my career.
Moving on to my third year. This was my favourite year, I was healthy and strong and I had finally learned how to shoot the ball. With the help of my coach I had made myself into a player. We were hosting playoffs that year and I was determined to do well. I did everything I could. Everything. To the point that my school work suffered, but at the time I didn’t care. We had one goal, to win playoffs. I had my University career high game that year with 35 pts, I was also named a 2nd team all-star in our league and Team MVP. But none of it mattered as all I wanted was to win that championship banner in our home gym. We won our quarter final game and got a chance to play in the semi-final. To this day, there has been nothing that has compared to that feeling of playing on Saturday night in front of a home crowd. It was incredible. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. It’s a hard feeling to describe when you work that hard for something and it doesn’t come to pass, but such is life. I was again, more motivated for the next year.
It was at this point that I discovered CrossFit. Peter, got me into it. He tricked me into doing “Death by Pull-ups”. That’s the one where you do 1 pull-up the first minute, 2 the second minute and so on. After that Peter signed me up for the very first CrossFit open and I was hooked. Each of the 6 workouts in the Open that year had an exercise in it that I had never done. Also, there was no scaled division back then so you just did best you could. I had some strength when I began but my technique and gymnastic needed work. Somewhere out there, there are some very funny videos of me falling on my face doing toes to bar, being very obviously scared of dropping the barbell on some ground to overheads and throwing my chest at the bar in C2B pull-ups. After the Open, CrossFit replaced my other weight training in my training for basketball
My fourth year was a rough one. I was scrimmaging one day with my team in August and I went into anaphylactic shock. I spent the whole year managing playing time and trying to solve a mysterious illness with odd symptoms. I saw 20 different types of doctors and no one really knew what was going on. I missed 9/20 games that year and in the end the best answer I got was that I was allergic to Mangos. The symptoms eventually lessened and I managed to get back to working out and playing at full capacity again.
My fifth and final year had a rocky start as I managed to roll my ankles significantly 3 times within the first few months. I recovered in time for the season. I savoured every moment of playing that year. My coach used to tell us that there are few things in your life that have true time limits to them, but playing 5 years of varsity sports is one of those things. We lost a heartbreaker in the semi-finals that year and my career as a Sea~Hawk was done. Finishing that year, I received a first team all-star, tournament all-star, team MVP and was named as Female Athlete of the year at Memorial.
For those of you who have played varsity athletics or done something that has that definite time limit, you understand that it’s like losing a piece of you. It’s like losing your identity. You identify as a basketball player to yourself and everyone around you for so long that it’s hard to let go of and understand who you are after that is done. I call it 5th year syndrome. I was one of the fortunate ones because even though my varsity career was over, my identity as a basketball player was not.
After my 5th season ended I began to do research into playing overseas in Europe. I found an agent and with the help of old opponent in my league who had played for the TOWERS I arranged a tryout with her team in Speyer, Germany. That April 2013, I rushed to write my final exams of my degree and flew out before the graduation ceremony to attend a mock G-20 conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. I attended a tryout with the TOWERS as I stopped in Germany on my way back from Russia. I had a good tryout and I was so pleased with the environment that I signed a contract with them before I flew home. My coach told me a year later that he was watching me at that tryout trying to figure out what I did, what my speciality was. He eventually realized that it was my versatility. I could play every position, guard every position, shoot, rebound, defend, drive, pass and dribble. I wasn’t exceptional at any one thing but it was my ability to do it all that made me a unique and valuable player. It was interesting hearing that as I began to realize it doesn’t just pertain to my basketball skills. That’s how I want to be, versatile and adaptable.
When my second season ended that spring I knew I wanted to travel before I returned to Canada but the question was for how long? I remember asking my mom for her advice. This was her response, “Grace! You’re 24 going on 40. Go and travel and make some mistakes. How often in life will you have a free flight home and place to stay when you get there?!” So I travelled for 5 months all around Europe. It was amazing.
A little more about me. I can’t get enough of travelling to new places. I absolutely love mountains and the ocean. I enjoy doing handstands, pretty much everywhere. I’m a dog person. My mom is my hero for more reasons than I can name. I get grumpy if I don’t do something active in my day. I genuinely like meeting new people and hearing their stories. I’m a coffee drinker and I love my beer.
That’s all she wrote for now folks. I’m eager to see where life takes me next. Thanks for reading and if you want to know more feel free to ask.