Sophie Swant talks pre-game traditions and her unique route to basketball

A sit-down with one of the veterans on the women’s basketball team

Sophie Swant is leading the women's basketball team with 13.3 points per game so far this season. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

By: Aliocha Perriard-Abdoh

Year: Junior

Major: Business

Hometown: North Vancouver

Sophie Swant, a third-year on the women’s basketball team, helped lead the team to a 73–49 win against University of Alaska on December 31 in their last game of 2017. In 2018, they are currently 2–1, claiming wins against Western Oregon and Saint Martin’s, and losing against Concordia (Ore.). Swant is currently the leading scorer on the team, averaging 13.4 points per game, and also leads the team with over one block per game. After a lot of turnover from the season before, Swant is seen as one of the leaders on a relatively young Clan team.

The Peak: Why did you choose to play basketball for SFU?

Sophie: There [were] a lot of reasons that contributed to me choosing SFU. I mean, yes, it is close to home, it (academically) is a prestigious school, [it has] a very competitive basketball team, and it’s in my home province of British Columbia, but [I] mostly [chose it] because of the tradition of excellence on the women’s basketball team here at SFU. Being coached by Bruce Langford is an amazing opportunity. He was one of the coaches that really [convinced] me to come here, so if he was willing to take a chance on me then I was willing to take a chance on him, too.

P: What are some of your favourite memories of playing for SFU?

S: So far? I’d say one of the big ones was last year when we beat Alaska Anchorage who was currently ranked as number two in the country, and that was a big upset. Leading up to that game there [were] online polls of people voting the probability of us winning or not winning, and most people said that we didn’t have a chance at all to even come close to winning. And when that final buzzer sounded, that was all the hard work we’d put in that season, and everything we’d wanted to accomplish that year seemed to come forward . . . Everyone really came together as a huge team, and that was really the first time. The celebration of it was just remarkable.

P: So would you say that the polls helped motivate you?

S: I would say yeah. It’s always nice to go into a game when other people are saying you can’t do it and having that extra fire and saying, “Just watch us, we can do it.”

P: What are some of your personal goals for upcoming seasons as well as team goals that you would like to conquer alongside teammates?

S: [For] personal goals, I would like to just be what the team needs me to be. If that means being a scorer one day, a passer one day, someone who needs to be on the bench maybe because everybody else is playing really well, that is what I’ll be. I just kind of want to have my role, whatever that might be for that day and help towards our team goal of winning and playing to our potential, and allowing us to flow on offence and take pride in our defence.

P: How did you get into basketball and what made you decide early on to keep playing?

S: So I actually picked up basketball later than I would say most people do. [I started] around grade seven, grade eight. It wasn’t really that competitive for me; I considered it something to do in the off-season of soccer. And it wasn’t until grade twelve that I chose to play basketball, or even really wanted to play basketball at the post-secondary level. So, a little bit more of a less traditional route, but I think I made the right decision because I always look forward to coming into practice, playing hard, getting better, helping our team get better, and to work towards our season goals.

P: Can the Clan witness a comeback to soccer down the line?

S: [chuckles] Well, if the soccer team, let’s say, had a bunch of people get injured and needed people, I’d definitely be there to help out a fellow team. But I’ll probably just stick to the intramural area of soccer. I mean, I do miss parts of soccer; I think it’s a great game, and I think it’s different in a lot of ways from basketball [but] it’s also the same. I do miss it on occasion, but basketball is definitely where my passion and my love is for sport.  

P: This is more of a team question: do you as a team have any pregame traditions? Anything that you guys do to promote a good attitude on the court?

S: We all have our own little things that we like to do. For me personally, I like to be on the court an hour and a bit before the game actually starts and get my game shots up, or looks that I might have in the game that are the opposition-specific look. So, if we’re playing Alaska Anchorage you’re gonna have a lot more coming to lane post looks, whereas in other teams you might be more of a shooter, so just tethering your preparations to the team you’re going to be playing are things that I like to do. As a team, when we’re on the road we have a pregame meal together and we kinda all arrive at the gym at the same time, and we have our team warm up, so I guess that’s more of a tradition. But we don’t have songs that we listen to, or like a dance that we have, nothing that extreme. I think it’s a little bit more subtle than that.

P: How do you find balancing basketball and school?

S: It’s difficult sometimes, but at the same time you have so much support from your fellow teammates who are going through the exact same thing as you are. Your coaches, everyone upstairs in the SFU athletics department, Kelly Traynor, they’re all there to support you and help you achieve your academic goal as well as your sport goal. So it’s nice that there is still an emphasis on academics.

P: What are some of your favourite things that you’ve gotten to experience at SFU?

S: I think the people are a big part of it. The people in my faculty, and the people in athletics have added so much more to my experience maybe than if I’d gone somewhere else. Whether it be classmates, teammates, coaches, faculty, staff, everyone has enriched my [experience] here, which has really made it special for me.

P: If there was one piece of advice you’d give your past self (you as a first-year) what would it be?

S: Don’t sweat the small stuff as much. There’s going to be times where you’re not going to — in sport and in school — get the mark you want, or hit the shot you need to hit or feel like you need to hit. Moving on without carrying that on as dead weight in your life I think makes you a happier person, and I wish that I really believed that, as much as I do now, in my first-year.

P: Similarly, if you could ask a question to your future self what would it be?

S: I mean, jeez louise, I guess: “What are you up to now? Are you still playing basketball? Are your goals in line with where I see them right now, both sport-wise, academically, and career-wise?” I guess, yeah, all that. That’s a tough one. [chuckles].