Over the last 10 years, I have learned three lessons.
1. Things rarely go accordingly to plan.
2. The path to success is not linear.
3. Most importantly, nothing great is ever accomplished without the support and expertise of others.
Over the last few weeks, all three of these points have been proven true.
Had it not been for family, friends, supervisors, and even strangers, I would not have been able to train at a high level and carry on with my PhD.
On Jan. 23, while I was going for a walk in Ontario’s Muskoka area, I got an urgent call from my sister. A neighbour, back home in Prince Albert, Sask., had phoned because my father was being carried out on a stretcher.
I knew not to panic and to wait for actual facts, but there was half an hour where I did not know whether my dad was dead or alive. My sister called back. Dad had a heart attack and was being helicoptered from Prince Albert to Saskatoon. As soon as I hung up, I knew I had to get back to Saskatchewan ASAP.
I called my PhD supervisor, Dr. Heather Logan-Sprenger; one of my best friends in Saskatoon, Dalyce Emmerson; my sport scientist Bruce Craven; the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario; my wheelchair basketball coaches; my cousin Brett Wells; and even my university basketball coach, Lisa Thomaidis. The calls were urgent. They had to be, if I was heading back to Saskatchewan for an indefinite amount of time, to continue training for the Paralympics, and stay on track with my academic work.
When I injured my knee in 2012 and my University of Saskatchewan basketball career came to an abrupt end, there was a group of people who never let me give up — in school, in training, and in life, in general.
When the going got tough, the same people, plus some new ones, showed up all over again. And they never let me give up either.
My supervisor encouraged me to go home, and she said we would make my PhD work, and keep moving forward.
The Canadian Sport Institute provided everything I needed for my research projects, and they added additional support.
Both Dalyce and Brett immediately offered places to stay in Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
Bruce Craven set everything up from a training and sport science perspective.
So, what does training look like in central and northern Saskatchewan, in the middle of a pandemic? The short answer is, it looks completely different.
We have had to adapt, adapt, and adapt again. All of the gyms are closed, and I am splitting my time between Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
Bruce and I have had to use every resource, and then just really trust the science. Since Bruce owns his own facility, he was able to help schedule the training and physio — nothing short of amazing. Everything I have accomplished in Paralympic sport is because of him.
My physiotherapist from the University of Saskatchewan, Rhonda Shishkin, is actually the physiotherapist for the senior momen’s Olympic basketball team, so for us both to be working towards Tokyo? This is a super special connection.
About those closed gyms...this was a big problem. Or it would have been, until Greg and Olivia Yuel graciously donated a warehouse that I can use for training, whenever I want. It really is the most incredible thing. My own private basketball facility!
How about the mental game? My sport psychologist, Professor Kent Kowalski, from the University of Saskatchewan, has helped me with coping skills and strategies to help manage training, school, teaching, and my work on various committees. The Canadian Paralympic Committee has also pitched in — accommodating meeting schedule changes and so forth. I am indebted and I am so grateful.
After being here for a few weeks, I am starting to realize just how special this experience is. I get to spend time with some of my best friends and people I grew up with. I am training with people who have invested in me since I was 17. And I’m building a great bond with my dad, who is recovering well.
As athletes, we all know that "things rarely go according to plan." Sometimes things with no plan at all, end up being hidden gifts. What looks at first like the outset of disaster, may become one of the greatest experiences of your life.
Next Question:The Erica Gavel edition
Q: The best book you've read?
A: Jonathon Livingston Seagull.
Q: Must-listen podcast?
A: The Science of Success.
Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Adapt or die.
Q: If your life is a movie, what would it be called?
A: A Real-Life Miracle, based on a true story.
Q: Word or phrase you overuse?
A: "Today was the best day of my life”… my friends tell me I always say that.
Q: Skill you wish you had?
A: Time travel — only backwards… so I can relive my favourite moments over and over again!
Q: Something no one would guess about you?
A: Volleyball was actually my main sport and I had a lot of scholarship opportunities in both the NCAA and USports.
Q: What scares you?
Q: Who gets an invite to your ultimate influential dinner party?
A: Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Dalyce Emmerson, Heather Logan-Sprenger, Lisa Thomaidis, and Catherine Gosselin-Despres ( I snuck in a seventh guest).
Q: What makes you cry, every time?
A: When I get super overtired and frustrating things happen.
Q: Next goal?
A: Finish my PhD and become a professor.
All images submitted by Erica Gavel