“I have no idea what I’m going to do, so it’s pretty crazy. My whole life, since I was young, I always knew what the next step would be — and I think that’s the way it is for most people,” Rebecca Langmead reflects as she nears the end of her final year.
“This is the first time I’ve been unsure, and it’s kind of relieving in a way to not know and not have your agenda specifically laid out. But at the same time, it’s pretty frightening.”
Before becoming an at-large representative for the SFSS, before playing forward on the women’s basketball team, Rebecca came from a small town in Newfoundland, about 20 minutes north of St. John’s. She spent a good portion of her childhood alone, as her two older brothers had already moved out — which made it that much harder to leave home.
“It is tough, going home only once a year, not being able to see your family at Christmas time, missing pretty important events in your family [. . .] you want to be there for those things, but you can’t,” she muses. “It’s especially difficult when people get sick. In my final year, before basketball started in September, my grandmother got diagnosed with cancer, and to not be there with her through all of that was incredibly hard.”
However, moving to the big city for the first time, Rebecca was excited for the change. She also had a chance that most Canadian university basketball players don’t get.
“My experience was incredible: I had a chance to compete in the NCAA — which was my dream as a kid growing up — and still stay in Canada. I met an amazing group of women that are my best friends, that I consider to be my family. My coach is nothing short of a father figure to me.”
At first, “I wasn’t a very good player,” she remembers with a laugh. “I played three years [where] I warmed the bench. It was really hard.”
It was a tough transition for Rebecca, who had spent much of her high school career as a starter and one of the team’s elite players.
“One of the things you realize coming to university, when you start playing basketball at that level, is that it’s not just about doing well and being a good person — you have to produce,” she says. “You’re getting paid to be here, for most of us with athletic scholarships — so if you don’t produce, why would they give you money? Why would they help you out?”
In her second year, she asked Langford if she could take the next year off without losing a year of NCAA eligibility.
“He said, ‘I don’t want you to [. . .] because I don’t know if I want you back next year; I don’t think you’ve worked hard enough. I need to reevaluate your position. You have the potential to be a really great player, but I just don’t think you’re giving me what I need.’
“That coming summer, I said to him, ‘Give me another chance, I’ll come back next year, and I’ll be one of the better players on the team.’ And I came back in my third and fourth year, I had gotten a lot better, a lot stronger — I gained about 25 lbs — and I just went and worked so hard those two summers, and in my fourth year I ended up becoming a starter.
“It as a tough road to get there, but worth every hour I put in,” she reflects.
When her four years of NCAA eligibility were up, she had two choices: to continue her basketball career professionally in Europe, or to hang up her shoes and focus on finishing her degree. She chose school.
“It’s not something that I felt came too quickly. It was like, ‘You know what, I’ve been playing basketball for half my life, it sucks that it’s over, but I’m ready for it to be over for a little bit,’” Rebecca says. “But I really wanted to finish my degree, I really wanted to get involved at SFU, so I just said, ‘This is my last year [at SFU] and I’m going to make the most out of it.’”
After that, it looked like Rebecca might simply focus on classes and cruise towards her degree — but that didn’t last for long.
“[I thought] after finishing basketball, ‘I’m not going to do anything, I’m going to focus on school, I’m going to get A’s and it’s going to be amazing’ — and then I joined the student society.”
Rebecca got involved with the SFSS in her final year of basketball because of the recommendation of a friend; however, she credits much of her political career to current president Chardaye Bueckert.
“I had an opportunity to sit down and meet Chardaye [. . .] and I just saw something in her that I hadn’t seen in anything other than athletics. I had always seen people passionate about athletics, and I’d never seen anyone passionate about anything else because that was my bubble,” Rebecca says. “To see somebody who was so passionate about improving student life and advocating for students really sparked my interest. And then I just saw all the places I thought I could help.”
Rebecca now finds herself even busier than she was playing basketball.
“It’s a busy life — I played basketball for four years, and we had 20 or 30 hours a week of training or travelling, and this is a completely different realm of busy. I’ve never been this busy before,” Rebecca notes.
But that’s the way she likes it.
“I’m love the fact I’m busy, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if academics were my whole life, because it’s not my whole life. I’m not an academically driven person, I’m a people-driven person.”
“I read a lot,” she says. “[A friend] came over to my house one day for dinner, and came into my room, and [there were] books everywhere. He said, ‘I was really thinking there would be more posters of cute boys, but you’ve got a lot of books!’”