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Vallee Blog #1: Why You Should Cheer for our Canadian Women’s Basketball Team!



The Olympic Women’s Basketball Tournament opens tomorrow. Big deal? Yes.

This is the first time in 12 years that Canada will have a basketball team representing this country at the Olympics-male or female. For a sport that was invented in our country, it is about time!

But why has it taken us so long? Here it is: In most countries in the world, women move straight from playing for their city clubs to playing professionally. The best players will actually move up to a pro career by age 16. They will continue to play pro until about 35. In fact, one of the only countries in the world that does not have a professional basketball system for women is…Canada. Here we operate on a school system. We play for a high school, then for a university. At age 23, after having competed 5 years for a university (or 4 years only if an athlete attends a school in the United States) the system automatically kicks you out and forces you to retirement. You are done and can no longer compete in basketball in Canada, or the USA. That’s the rule! No arguing. You are no longer eligible. Hang up your shoes and do something else…at 23 years old.

Yet, research shows that a women basketball athlete peaks at age 28. Therefore, not only do we cut our athletes career short, we end up rarely producing women basketball players that will play until a peeking age of 28. How, then, are we supposed to compete and win on the world stage? Here is why the current women’s basketball team has all my respect and support, and why, I believe, they should have yours: they are adventurous women living on the edge, taking chances by defying the system, breaking through Canada’s eligibility rules, raising themselves above the crowd and sacrificing relationships, standards of living, money-making jobs, and family for the sake of one common goal: becoming an Olympian.

Alisha Tatham and the rest of her team will look put their mark on the 2012 Olympic stage

Granted, no Olympic journey is easy. But if you want to make it as a female basketball player, you must move away to a different country. Pack your bags and join a team that does not speak your language, play for a coach that does not communicate in English, get around a city without being able to read any signs, deal with your injuries without the help of Canada’s advanced medical system, and get home at night, in a tiny apartment, alone, connecting to skype in hopes to be able to catch a few friends…oh wait… “time change”, perhaps that is a problem too. The journey is scary, the journey is lonely, and the journey does not pay “that” well. And be ready to be traded to a different club or different country if things don’t work out from their perspective…or yours!

Krista Phillips, one of Canada’s starters has already been in Italy, Spain and now Australia. Shona Thorburn has spent her last 7 years playing Spain. Courtney Pilypaitis, Canada’s 24 years old who was named MVP at the recent Olympic Qualifying tournament in Turkey, experienced Lithuania for the past 2 seasons, and not without a difficult time. She has decided, after these Olympics, not to go back to the professional basketball life. Miranda Ayim lives in Turkey during the year. Lizanne Murphy from Quebec had stops in Lithuania, Poland, and France…Tamara Tatham is in Germany…and Chelsea Aubry experienced Slovakia as her first professional gig.

You would think maybe it is okay since they spend their summers back in Canada? Wrong. They spend their summers sharing a room with a teammate from Team Canada somewhere in university residence, training under the guidance of coach Allison McNeill, or they travel to compete somewhere else in the world playing exhibition games and tournament: China, Thailand, Serbia, Columbia. All this for a common vision to accomplish only one thing: become an Olympian. And 12 years later….12 years! They did it!

So join us and rally behind these women as they step on the court tomorrow, Saturday July 28th at 6:15 EST. Cheer as loud as you can, and when you see them on TV, remember all the sacrifices they have gone through as Team Canada will take on their first game vs Russia.


Chantal Vallee is the Head Coach of the Windsor Lancers, the defending back-to-back Canadian InterUniversity Sports (CIS) Women’s Basketball Champions. Vallee has been hired as a basketball analyst by CTV Sports to help cover the Canada Basketball portion of the Olympic Summer Games.  CROWN is pleased to host her Blog entries, sharing with you her thoughts while in London covering the 2012 Games.