In Their Own Words: Persevering through Grief

In Their Own Words: Persevering through Grief

Mackenzie Robinson, Fourth Year, Laurentian Voyaguers Women's Basketball

Perseverance is the ability to accomplish a task despite difficulty or delay in achieving success; and this is just what I’ve done for the last four years as a student-athlete at Laurentian University.

Throughout my entire life, I have been pretty involved with all sorts of athletics. When I was young, I participated in everything. I tried almost every sport, but I just couldn’t find the best fit. Then in grade 3, my mother decided to put me in a program to try out basketball. I knew right away that I found my passion.

By grade 4, I was playing on a traveling team; in the following years, I trained with development teams in my county; in the summers I travelled with an AAU team; and by high school, I was extremely involved on multiple basketball teams. While in high school, I also extended my athletic abilities to other sports such as volleyball, rugby, softball, and badminton.

As my final year of high school was approaching, the decision to go to university and play basketball in the OUA was definitely an option, but it came to a standstill in the upcoming months.

In my grade 12 year my mother ending up becoming mentally ill, and in the months to follow, had taken her own life. This was extremely difficult to accept because my mother was my inspiration. At this point, I was tasked with grief, anger, and hard decisions; one being the decision to return for a victory lap. On top of my own problems, I also had to help my grandmother take care of my younger brother.

“At this point, I was tasked with grief, anger, and hard decisions…”

Of course, the following months were challenging and caused a lot of negative emotions, as I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I knew, however, that I had to persevere through the tough times. I had to face adversity and overcome my grief; not only for myself, but for my mother too. Although her death was traumatic and held me back, in the long run, it guided me in the right direction.

During my victory lap, I was still playing basketball for a club team located in my hometown and decided to send out emails regarding the opportunity to play basketball at university. Since my town is so small, it was really complicated getting coaches’ attention, especially for the big time schools. Eventually, I talked to a few coaches, but most of them were not very interested.

Fortunately, I received an email from my now head coach, Jason Hurley, regarding my interest in varsity basketball. At first, I was extremely skeptical because it’s Sudbury and to be serious, I was not persuaded by the 4 hour travel north to a cold, unheard of city. At the same time, I was optimistic and positive about the potential of playing university basketball.

A few months later, I toured Laurentian, talked to a professor about the Bachelor of Sport and Physical Education program, and roamed around the city. In a matter of minutes, I fell in love with the beautiful outdoors, the overall campus and facilities, and most importantly how it feels like home.

Fast forward, I am currently in my fourth year finishing my undergraduate degree, ecstatic at how much I’ve accomplished as a student-athlete. I am so thankful for the opportunity to play basketball while attending Laurentian. This has allowed me to play the sport I love while continuing studies in the field of Human Kinetics, where I am maintaining an honour-roll average of above 80%.

“Since coming to Laurentian, I have overcome obstacles no one at my age should.”

Over the last four years at university, the experience as a student-athlete has helped immensely with regards to my mental health. Since coming to Laurentian, I have overcome obstacles no one at my age should. Along with my mother’s death, I have lost several close and extended family members, and found out recently that my grandmother was diagnosed with many health issues. Although I’ve been seeing a counsellor since my first year, I had to find my own strategies to cope with my anxiety, depression, and grief as well. I quickly learned that basketball was the best strategy when dealing with my own mental health

“Every time I step on the court, I know my teammates and coaches have my back…”

Every time I step on the court, I know my teammates and coaches have my back, which makes it easier to play and takes my mind off things. The feeling of throwing on your jersey, basketball shoes, and preparing for a game is exhilarating and makes you forget about everything else going on.

To give others a perspective of varsity basketball; the team starts back up in September with pre-season games in October and then regular season begins in November, continuing all the way through until February, so our season is long. We usually practice four times a week for two hours, not including video, strength and conditioning, individual workouts, and shoots. Games, then, are held on Fridays and Saturdays.

We spend a lot of hours and weekends traveling on buses, staying at hotels, and playing multiple games. Being a student at Laurentian is extremely difficult because of the long distance bus trips. Our closest trip is to Nipissing; however, all the other schools in our league are at least a five hour trek. Due to my busy schedule with both school and basketball, as a student-athlete I have to find the time to finish my homework by the original due date, with no exceptions. In many cases, therefore, I have to bring work on the road and stay up late just to get the job done.

As for the athlete part, you must be intrinsically determined, motivated, hard-working, and dedicated to the sport. Even though I have had many road blocks over the years, I owe so much to coach Hurley, as I have been developed as a better player on and off the court. He has pushed me passed my limits, has encouraged me constantly, shaped me into the leader I am today, and continues to help me achieve my goals for success.

Overall, although my experience with basketball has been mentally and physically demanding, it has been worth every second of my time. I have learned that when times become difficult, do not let it take control of you. No matter what the situation is, I am always trying to keep a positive attitude and persevere, especially during challenging times. The mindset I portray shows that no matter what the outlook on life is, no one is allowed to make excuses for me and I will continue to push myself until I achieve my goals.