35-year-old goes back to the future

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By Jeff Jurmain

Sixteen years ago, Petra Wolfbeiss was playing basketball for York University.  Now, the aggressive guard has taken tot the court again as a 35-year-old rookie on Ryerson women’s squad.

Woflebiess, in her final year of Ryerson’s social work program, is more than a decade older that the average player on the team, but she says that it doesn’t faze her.

“I don’t’ feel any different than any other player,” she said.  “I keep my mouth shut and I can keep up with the others.

“My body probably aches a little more than anyone else.”

Fellow rookie Kiley Fleming, 20, said although Wolfbeiss is a rookie-of-sorts she really isn’t that at all.  She said Wolfbeiss is a leader in the weight room, on the court, in running drills, and will be an instrumental part of the team.

“She puts everything into perspective,” Fleming said.  “If someone gets upset, she controls the situation and calms everyone down.”

Wolfbeiss said it’s different than her days at York — it’s more fun this time.  She doesn’t mind the age difference because she has been around people younger than her for quite a while.  She has done a lot of consulting as a social worker, helping street youth for many years.  “I’m at a different stage of my life than the others,” Wolfbeiss said.  “Some people go out to the bar after practice, but I don’t do that anymore.”

She said she still attended rookie night at The Fuel Station, decked in respectful clothes and piles of make-up, but did not drink to excess.

Coach Sandra Pothier says her eldest player carries a mature and positive outlook and adds intensity on the court.

“She’s a silent leader with a great work ethic,” Pothier said.  “She sees the floor well, has terrific offensive ability and is very aggressive.”

Pothier said Wolfbeiss understand what it takes to be part of a championship team (although she played two years on a “pretty bad” York team), and that will filter down to kids coming straight from high school.

“Petra is in excellent shape and that inspires someone who’s 18 to keep up with a teammate who’s 35,” Pothier said.

Number seven easily keeps up with the other players and the power she exerts has led the coach to consider her for a starting role.

As for Wolfebiess, she is playing basketball “for playing’s sake,” and is enjoying what will likely be her last year of organized basketball.

“It’s my last hurrah, and I’m going to have fun … and win.”

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