By Caroline Alphonso
Music echoes through the apartment on this chilly Saturday night. She grudgingly walks up the stairs to her bedroom in Neill-Wycik Cooperative College, at the corner of Church and McGill Streets, after a movie with her friend. She hears laughing as she passes the room of one of her housemates. She stops to listen. A group of friends, dressed in Halloween costumes, are ready for a party. The temptation is unbearable so she walks to her room. It’s only 1 a.m. and parties are still underway. She buries her head in her pillow, to block out the noise, forcing sleep upon herself.
As dawn breaks, the apartment still sleeps. The alarm goes off and she peels herself from her bed. Ryerson women’s basketball player Becky Owens has an early practice under the bright lights of the Air Canada Centre. It’s the final women’s game of the Raptors Cup, a college and university tournament, on Halloween day.
Fans slowly trickle into the arena to watch the early morning game. Owen’s family takes their seats, watching their daughter and sister wait for her turn to play. Sitting on the other side of the court are York University’s Yeowomen. They’re fighting with the Rams for a second place finish. Owen doesn’t look over at the enemy. She takes on her subtle leadership role by clapping loudly or patting a teammate on the back.
Not too far into the game, she’s put on the court. Her short ponytail bobs up and down as she runs. At 5’10”, the 22-year-old is one of them taller players on the women’s team. She practices vigilantly with the team for five nights a week, for two or three hours a stretch.
Her family has always been there to support her. But these days, she takes the leadership values her parents taught her and encourages her teammates. She acts as a mentor to some members of the team.
She has devoted a lot of time to the game and the team, balancing her final year of classes. When she’s not playing a game at Ryerson, she’s on the road across eastern Ontario. That doesn’t leave much room for family or even a social life.
“I couldn’t imagine myself going to university and not playing any sports,” she said. “I’ve even had teachers tell me that I shouldn’t do both.”
One way her family gets to see her is by attending her games.
Her father, John, watched closely as Owen gets on the court at the Air Canada Centre. After playing for some time, she is fouled out. John stands and loudly boos the referee. He loves watching his daughter play. Having a supportive family by her side helps keep her motivated. Her father played hockey and her mother was a physical education teacher. Becky and her brother James were involved in a number of sports, from baseball to swimming. “I felt kids should get involved in everything,” her mother Miriam said.
Years of playing a single sport may have finally come to an end in July when, at one point, Owen decided to quit the team. “I was going to have fun for a year,” she said.
There were internal conflicts within the team. “Our team was fighting each other, fighting with the coaches,” she said. “You’re not going to win any games like that.”
There were several occasions where a team member was on the foul line with her teammates arguing with each other. The other team would laugh at them.
“For any team that spends as much time together as we did, conflicts happen,” said Owen’s co-captain Lisa Poulin. “But we couldn’t control them.”
It didn’t take Owen too long to step back on the court. With a bit of coaxing, she couldn’t resist. The summer months were filled with calls from teammates, coach Sandra Pothier and assistant coach Richard Dean. And when she started school, the calls increased.
At 8 a.m. one morning in early September, Owen’s phone rang and Dean was on the other end.
“Luckily, I was up to go to placement otherwise he would have got an earful,” she said jokingly.
Her welcome back was informal. Dean gathered the players around him. “Everybody this is Becky,” he said. “She’s a great person and she can help us reach our goals this year, so be nice to her.”
“What if we don’t like her?” one of the players shouted out.
“If you don’t like her, just tell her,” Dean replied.