WEEK #23: ASHLEY B.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Ashley Beckles, I am a recent alumnus of the University of Toronto and currently work as Sport Information Coordinator at the University of Toronto Mississauga and Assistant Coach for the Women’s Basketball team. I started playing sports at a very young age, playing for Dairy Queen’s softball team and swimming competitively for the City of Brampton Swim Club (COBRA). In middle school, I was able to diversify and try new sports like basketball, badminton and I also ran track and did shot-put. I quit swimming when I was 12 because I enjoyed being a part of a team sport like softball. I was the Athlete of the Year in my graduating grade 8 class, which was a huge accomplishment for me, ultimately propelling me into a world of athletics. By the time I got to high school, I was playing softball for the City of Brampton Blazers and played basketball and rugby in school. Due to the risk of injury, I stopped playing rugby to focus on softball. In my grade 12 year, I stopped playing softball; I did not intend on playing sports in my post-secondary career because I wanted to focus on school. I soon realized that I was not the whole without sports in my life; I craved the competition and discipline that it brought to my life. It was in my second-year of university that I was introduced to my mentor Saleé Johnson-Edwards who is the coach for the Women’s basketball team at UTM. At the time, I was a softball player who liked playing basketball for fun and the UTM coaching staff moulded me into a Varsity level basketball player and I was named captain of the squad by my fourth year at UTM. In my graduating year, I received the Student Leadership Award and Principals’ Involvement Award for my involvement within the athletics community at UTM. I am now 1-year post graduation and continue to work in athletics as Sport Information Coordinator and Assistant Coach for the Women’s Basketball team at UTM because I am passionate about impacting others through sports.
What qualities of a leader do you appreciate most? Why?
I definitely appreciate when a leader can inspire me. I love quotes so if my coach is giving me “quotable” advice that I will remember, I will definitely appreciate their words. What I will appreciate more than their words is their actions though. If they lead by example and are genuine in their coaching, I will have a greater respect for them. Integrity is also another quality I have the utmost respect for. If you waiver on your values and standards, how do you expect to lead or inspire?
What is a barrier you have faced in sport? How did you overcome that barrier?
In my fourth year as a student-athlete, playing basketball for UTM, I suffered a second-degree ankle sprain that took me off the court for a month and a half and landed me in a boot. In that time, I learned a lot about who I was as an individual and as an athlete. It was hard watching my teammates compete without me, going into battle and I wasn’t able to be on the court to fight with them. I realized that I had a false understanding of what it meant to be on a team. Just because I wasn’t on the court, didn’t mean I was not a member of the team and more importantly, a captain. I needed to change my mentality. If I was going to be on the sidelines, I was going to help my teammates, I was going to cheer the loudest, I was going to see things they couldn’t see because my perspective had changed. I found other ways to help off the court and lead the team. I was able to overcome my injury by not letting my injury overcome me. My goal was to return to the court for my Senior’s Night, the last game of my career even if I played 5-minutes, I wanted to go into battle with my sisters one more time. With the help of my coaching staff, I was able to accomplish this goal (I even snuck in to take jump-ball).
What advice do you have for parents, coaches, or sport administrators to encourage or improve sport for females?
Communication can make or break a relationship. Whether it be on the playing surface or in the car ride home; if you are communicating a negative message and the main point is “you suck”, no one would return to that experience. Communicating failures as learning opportunities can change the mindset of an athlete. Learning ways to communicate effectively to females; understanding that non-verbal communication is still communication is a great lesson to learn. Keeping sports as a positive experience and outlet for females will increase their willingness to participate and encourage them belong. Females find a sense of belonging when engaging in sports. If they lose that sense of belonging due to a broken or strained relationship, they may never return to sports; associating it with a negative experience.