By Jaime Hills
The first week of school makes me think of dropping out. In 2014, I was living at my mom’s house and working full-time as a server after leaving UBC two years into a Kinesiology degree. In March of that year, I had been doing well in school, I was playing on a successful CIS basketball team and I had great friends who loved me. But I wasn’t inspired. I wanted to be challenged and pushed in new directions.
Enter Ryerson. A native of Vancouver, I had never heard of Ryerson. I learned about this school through a friend of my mom’s—a guidance counselor at a local high school who had met a recruiter there to speak about potential students coming out East. She left behind a brochure and highlighted a new program called sport media. “Sport media?,” I thought.
I applied to Ryerson while I was still memorizing notes for my anatomy and physiology exam at UBC, feeling like a cheating partner in an unstable relationship as I checked over my shoulder to see if anyone in the library could see what I was doing.
I soon learned that all of the spots in the program had been filled. I was added to a waitlist and left with a decision to make: spend another year of time and money on a program that was not making me happy, or take a year off of school and basketball to work towards this new goal. I chose the latter, even though I was unsure of what that year off would mean for me on the basketball court.
I learned a lot about myself, but I also felt like I was missing a key piece of who I was.
In my gap year, I went on a seven-week trip to Australia alone and met people from all over the world. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I wasn’t playing competitive sports. I was not an athlete. I didn’t touch a basketball for nearly half a year. I learned a lot about myself, but I also felt like I was missing a key piece of who I was. I was itching to get back on the court, so as my first year at Ryerson approached, I set out to become a Ram. Playing out West, I had never heard much about the Ryerson basketball program because in my two years at UBC, the Rams hadn’t been dominant in their conference. Things have changed since then.
Last August, I had yet to walk my first steps through the Ryerson campus, and now I can’t remember how I used to get from class to class without walking through Yonge and Dundas Square. I had never won a game on Coca-Cola Court, and now I am an OUA champion and a CIS silver medalist. I have been to a national championship and my team has played in a game broadcasted on TVs across Canada.
I always get asked to compare Ryerson to UBC and my time at each school, but they are so different that it is nearly impossible to put them side-by-side. The campus size, and therefore the class size, are worlds apart. The metropolitan vibe of a downtown Toronto campus and an isolated university world outside of the Vancouver core are at opposite ends of the spectrum. But the biggest difference I noticed was going from an athletic program with 29 teams and decades of history behind it to one which had yet to win a conference championship, and which was just starting to get recognized on a national level.
What incoming students at Ryerson may not realize is that we haven’t always been relevant in the world of Canadian university sports. We didn’t always have nationally ranked teams in multiples sports. I was lucky that I came to Ryerson when I did, because I’ve been able to be a part of this incredible transformation, but I would be a fool to forget the hard work of all those who played before me and their importance in making the Rams what we are today. The players that have graduated from Ryerson, the ones who played their home games in the Kerr Hall gym and the ones who got to see the Maple Leaf Gardens transform into the Mattamy Athletic Centre. I got to walk in here, to a beautiful center court with an excited crowd cheering me on, and tip off as their final buzzer was sounding.
The culture that defines what it is to be a Ram is indescribable.
Being a Ram means more than putting on the jersey on game day, more than showing up to practice and working hard for two hours. It means more even than representing our school at a national tournament in Fredericton, while the men’s basketball team does the same thing in Vancouver. It means buying into the concept of “Ramily,” and embracing the mutual support that it entails, because without it we couldn’t be growing as we are. The fact that we, as a women’s team, get a full gym for our games is practically unheard of in the CIS, and the excitement and promotion that surrounds our games is unmatched by any other school. We make connections with athletes on other Ryerson teams, and we are consistently at their games in our blue and gold cheering our heads off when they score goals and make saves. The culture that defines what it is to be a Ram is indescribable. It’s a feeling that makes you feel like you’re invincible because you have a whole school full of people behind you, ready to go to battle with you and for you. I’ve been proud to play for every team that I have been a part of, but I have never been more proud than I am to be a Ram.
Last September made me feel like a first year all over again. I didn’t know anyone in Toronto, I had no idea where anything was, and I was the kid who missed my mom in the first week.
A new school can be overwhelming, and can make you feel like the smallest person in the world. This is especially true in a place like Toronto, where everything is always moving and it feels like no one will stop for you if you slip. Ryerson will help you if you ask for it, and show you off like a proud parent while you’re here becoming the person you dream of being.