They say that everything you’ve ever wanted is one step outside of your comfort zone. It’s a saying that resonates with athlete Élodie Tessier. A member of the Canadian Senior Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball Team, Tessier is getting closer to living that saying.
This past season, Tessier made the choice for herself to take on a new challenge and pursue school and basketball south of the border at the University of Texas at Arlington. A new adventure, in a new country where she knew absolutely no one. She saw the opportunity and seized it to grow as a person and as a player.
“I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to go somewhere where I didn’t really know anybody. I think I did that and I’m really enjoying my experience there.
“When I first visited the campus, I just had this feeling. It was great. With school, it’s a great opportunity to study in English, which I’ve never done before. It’s a really great experience and a challenge for me so I wanted to do it.”
She admits it was an uncomfortable transition at first, like any new challenge is. But she soon settled in, both with her studies in international business administration and on the court with her new teammates on the UTA Lady Movin’ Mavs.
“The basketball program is really good. What they have to offer me on the team is really different from the national team. My role and my style of play is really different so I’m getting out of my comfort zone a lot there too. I’m known as a sealer, a picker and a transition player. But Mavs head coach Jason Nelms really wants me to shoot the ball more often, to be confident in my shot and be more of a threat on offence. That’s really different.”
While her role on court may be different, the dynamic within the team draws some parallels to that of Team Canada. Both squads are young and developing chemistry as they grow together moving forward.
“Everyone was really committed to the team and we progressed so much,” said Tessier of her freshmen season in Texas. “We were learning every day. It’s a process when you’re starting out with a new team. We had an amazing season. It was really fun to play. It’s fun to play with people that you don’t know and you have to make sure that you connect quickly to be able to perform.”
While the collegiate season was cut short just before nationals due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tessier was still recognized by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) as a second-team All-American and a member of the All-Rookie team.
Now back home in Saint-Germain-de-Grantham, just outside of Drummondville, Que., Tessier is doing what she can to train. Her dad built a stationary roller setup so she can still push in her basketball chair. But she’s finding that balance by investing more time on life outside of basketball while the sport is on pause.
Tessier has a new job as a receptionist at les Coifferies d’Annie, a local hair salon where her twin sister Jessica is a hair stylist. She’s staying active with a new paddleboard and cross-training through rowing and biking, and she’s picked up some hobbies with crochet and is growing a variety of vegetables – carrots, radishes, beans and onions – in her garden.
“We love soup. It’s the best thing ever,” she joked.
“I do miss basketball but right now I’m enjoying a lot of stuff at home. I’m getting the opportunity to get reacquainted with my sister. We’ve been apart for so long and we haven’t lived together since 2013, so being able to reconnect with her is really enjoyable right now. I’m finding a lot of joy in other aspects of my life that I haven’t had the time to enjoy.”
She has invested four years of focus towards competing at her first Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020. Now that the Paralympic journey has taken an unexpected detour, she is taking the time to reset mentally.
“I know when I transition back to the National Training Centre to train, I’ll be focused for that. I can’t wait to be back in a real gym and training, but at the same time I really want to enjoy the present moment right now because I know it won’t be there anymore when life goes on again.”
Follow Élodie @elo_tessiier and the rest of Team Canada on the road to Tokyo: