When you read ‘Canada Basketball' who -or what- comes to mind?
Take a moment to consider the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team.
Did you know our team is currently ranked fourth in the world? Olympics in 2012 and 2016. Competing now for the chance to play Tokyo, a third straight Olympic Games.
The success of the Women’s Team didn’t happen overnight. It goes back to a time when Canada was unranked, struggling to convince opposing teams to play them in exhibition games. It started with women who had a love for the game, a vision of how great Canada could be, and a willingness to sacrifice their time, bodies and abilities for their country.
It’s because of the sacrifice of trailblazers like Tammy Sutton-Brown, Stacy Dales and Teresa Gabriele, that current players are able to live out their dreams today.
And it’s never just the players. It’s the coaching staff, the trainers, the physiotherapists, the staff who are constantly arranging schedules, raising funds and seeking opportunities for the Canadian Women’s National Team.
I have been blessed to play for the past 17 years. Teammates and I have had to leave Canada to compete against the best in the world. Most of us have competed in NCAA Colleges and Universities, or the WNBA. We have honed our craft in Asia, Europe, Australia, and around the globe.
This all comes at a price. There’s no telling how many birthdays, babies, weddings, and family functions we have missed over the years. How much valuable time with loved ones we have sacrificed. The injuries. The physical and mental battles we’ve endured.
But unfortunately, regardless of how well we perform, the accomplishments and sacrifices, Women’s sports are often overlooked or forgotten.
We see this uphill battle taking place across all sports. In some cases we see progress. The WNBA recently signed a landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement., which includes a salary raise for all its players, improved travel and accommodations and maternity leave. The US Women’s Soccer Team is suing their federation for equal pay. Despite three World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, the women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts (who they consistently outperform). In the CWHL and WNHL, the women have come together in cross-border unity, refusing to play next season until conditions improve.
Many of these athletes aren’t paid livable salaries, even those who compete for their countries at the Olympics. We have important conversations about equality in women’s sports. But we still have a way to go.
In spite of the challenges, women continue to pursue professional athletics. The late Kobe Bryant saw and understood the value of women’s sports. As an accomplished man and a global icon, he invested and proudly supported women’s sports.
As athletes, our sacrifices afford us incredible opportunities, like potentially playing in the 2020 summer Olympics. When women’s sports are properly supported, the effects are felt beyond the court. The support impacts lives all around us.
Love of the Game, Love of Country
You don’t go through grueling workouts, long travel days, months away from home for something you don’t love. Being on the court brings us pure joy. It’s an escape, a place where you are battling alongside 11 of your sisters. It’s where we experience highs that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Basketball is where you push your body until you discover what you’re truly made of. It’s where you form bonds as strong as family. It’s where all those hours and years we put in finally pay us back .
When we put on the national team jersey it’s not about the name on the back. The most important name is on our chest. Canada. We are representing not just ourselves, but our entire country. Hopefully we have an entire nation supporting and cheering for us.
I know from personal experience how hard it is to earn the privilege of wearing this jersey. It’s about the women who wore the jerseys before us, and who laid the ground work. It’s an honor. It’s a dream come true. We don’t ever take it for granted.
It’s Bigger Than Us
We play and sacrifice for this sport, because we know Basketball is bigger than us. The impact and reach athletes can have is immense. Our platform allows us to inspire, motivate, educate, awaken a love of sport, or give someone courage they didn’t realize they possessed. Every time we step on that court, we are showing little boys and girls around the country that they too can have this dream. We are especially showing young girls that they can be strong, beautiful, educated, daring, passionate, outspoken. We are showing them that they can be!
Sports taught me discipline and confidence. It’s where I found my voice, it’s where I was accepted for who I was, and constantly challenged to be even better. And the best part? Getting to really know my teammates.They are more than athletes. They are wives, daughters, authors, videographers, writers, creators, photographers, public speakers, coaches, mentors, and engineers…
The next time you think of Canada Basketball, I hope the Women’s Team comes to mind. Perhaps you will even take the time to sit down and enjoy a game or three. You can start this Thursday, February 6, 8 and 9 when we compete in Belgium for the opportunity to attend our third straight Olympic Games. The games will be televised on CBC and streamed on DAZN.
When you think of Canada Basketball, think of the players past and present. This organization is filled with phenomenal Canadian women. They are ridiculously talented ball players, with inspiring stories to tell. When you think of sports, I hope your fellow female athletes come to mind. I hope you support them as they aim to level the playing field, or in our case, the court.
Canada on three, un, deux, trois, CANADA!
Photo Credits: top large image THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young second large image submitted by Basketball Canada third large image THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn bottom photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images