Every summer my family and I used to take a vacation to Penticton, BC while I attended the city’s basketball camp for 5 days. It was a great way to spend time with one another while relaxing in the sun, swimming in beautiful lakes, taking in the scenery and conveniently allowing me to improve my bball game. I looked forward to this summer trip every year. Basketball camps allowed me to play with/against new girls, show off my skills and most importantly – get better. However, the thing I enjoyed most about basketball camps were the counselors – normally college girls who seemed so good and so much older than me at the time. I was intimidated, but I also looked up to these young women. Knowing of their successes on the court, I wanted to be like them, and I wanted to be their friend. They were great role models and great people to look up.
After attending numerous camps across the province, training in Basketball BCs Regional Training Center and Center for Performance and playing on Provincial Teams, my skills developed enough that I was able to achieve one of my goals – attending a Pac-10 university on a basketball scholarship. It was a dream come true. Hours in the gym had paid off. Not only was I going to play in one of the best conferences in the nation, I was getting my collegiate education paid for. Husky home games would see us playing in front of 3,000 to 4,000 fans on any given night. It was awesome! Halfway through my freshman year it finally clicked. I was now that role model I looked up to when I was younger. Thousands of girls (and boys) of all ages attended our games, screaming and cheering for us as we battled our opponents. Win or lose they were there after games waiting for my teammates and I to autograph game cards, sign posters, pose for pictures or just say a few sentences to us. We were minor celebrities who were recognized around Seattle, especially when in U Village or shopping at the mall. I learned that I was someone young girls could look up to. It was strange feeling. I never considered myself a role model or minor celebrity of any kind. I was just Breanne; a klutzy Canadian who enjoyed being with her friends and making people laugh. It was surreal.Realizing the affect I had on adolescent girls (and boys), I decided to embrace it and be a great role model (wake up Britney!) I refrained from swearing on the court (however, we all slip up every now and then ☺), acted in a professional manner towards opponents, refs and coaches – aware that every move I made on the floor was probably being watched. I never refused an autograph or picture, made sure to say hello to fans that went out of their way to support the team or me, and tried to make time for those who wanted to chat. I was a camp coach/counselor at June Daughtery Hoop Camps, volunteered at free clinics around Seattle, spent time with kids at the Ronald McDonald House and went to the odd high school game to support former campers. I felt it was the least I could do – I used to be that little girl wanting to spend time with her favorite college player. I knew what it felt like when your hero took the time to sign a piece of paper or even just say hello.
After graduation I assumed my time as a public figure was over. Wrong! I’m by no means a known face here in Jyväskylä, but do have a 7-10 year old following. (I know, you’re jealous!) This is because Liz, Charlee, Monty and I coach elementary kids for an hour every Wednesday at one of the local elementary schools. It’s fun and very rewarding. I love seeing the kids get better each week. The toughest obstacle to overcome during these sessions is the language barrier. Most of the kids understand English, but few can actually speak it. This results in a lot of hand motions and us using our extremely limited Finnish vocabulary (paul-o=ball, who-va=good, yo=yes, sue-ett-a=pass, os-kal-lay=travel). Most of the kids laugh at our pronunciation, but thankfully 3 or 4 (our favorites!) correct it, teach us words or translate for the rest of the kids. They’re pretty cute and love bouncing the balls around. Monty is definitely the favorite – he dunks on request! Other than Wednesdays, we rarely see the kids. Mind you, many turn up at home games or walk up to us in town. They think it’s funny to sneak behind us, stand there and wait until we bump into them. Apparently it's hilarious, causing them to promptly burst out into laughter. Oh to be a kid!
Sidenote: Baby bro was in the Vancouver papers this week. The Province and The Sun. Must be doing something right!