Alumni speech: Nicole Wierks challenges Cascades to make the most of their university experience

Nicole Wierks had a decorated career with the Cascades women's basketball team, highlighted by four straight trips to the Canada West Final Four and a CIS bronze medal. (Tree Frog Imaging file photo)

Nicole Wierks had a decorated career with the Cascades women’s basketball team, highlighted by four straight trips to the Canada West Final Four and a CIS bronze medal. (Tree Frog Imaging file photo)

Nicole Wierks (women’s basketball, 2009-2014) was invited to give a speech on behalf of the alumni at the Cascades’ recent awards banquet, and she delivered an impassioned challenge to UFV’s current athletes to get the most out of their time on campus. “My wish for you,” she said, “is that you will miss it when you are done.” The following is the text of her speech in its entirety.

Good evening everyone, my name is Nicole. I just wanted to say that everyone is looking very lovely and handsome tonight. As for you athletes out there, the dress clothes are certainly a nice upgrade from the tracksuits, uniforms, sweats and Lululemon pants most of you spend 90 per cent of your time in.

And of course, I can’t get up here and not embarrass my little sister Sarah a bit by mentioning how very proud I am of her for tearing up the varsity women’s basketball scene this year. In my very biased opinion – but I am sure the opinion of many others – she has had an amazing five years here and has always been a very special young woman. It’s definitely a year that you deserved, Sarah, and I am so happy for your success. I am also happy for the success of all of the other fifth-years that have dedicated so much of themselves, their time and their effort to the sports they play, helping to keep the Cascade name on the map.

For those of you who don’t know me, I played here for five years on the woman’s basketball team, just finishing up last year. After that, I decided it was a good idea to do even more school, so I am currently in a very long program at UBC. Now I guess I am an alumni here, which makes me feel sort of old, but apparently it gives me some sort of rite of passage to come up here and give my two cents to all of you other athletes.

Nicole Wierks delivered a speech on behalf of the alumni at the recent Cascades awards banquet.

Nicole Wierks delivered a speech on behalf of the alumni at the recent Cascades awards banquet.

Even though I have only been out of the game here for less than a year, there are a lot of things I am missing already about being a part of the Cascade family and a part of the basketball team. Of course I miss playing basketball, but I also miss the girls that I played with. I miss my coaches and I miss all our wonderful support staff, especially the trainers and athletic therapists who will give you free massages any time you want. Whether or not you need it is often debatable but they do it anyway. I miss that feeling you get when you know you are killing it during a big game. I miss being able to be overly competitive all the time. I miss being in really great shape. And I miss many other things as well.

If I had to give the athletes here any sort of advice, I think it would be this: Never walk away from a game, win or lose, thinking you gave it your best and that’s all that matters. And maybe that’s my overly competitive side talking, but I just don’t think high-level athletes should function like that. Walk out of a game thinking, “I gave it my best, but it wasn’t good enough… yet.” Know that you’ve still got work to do and that you need to make your best better so that it is always good enough, so that no one pats you on the back and says “you’ll get them next time.” Work towards the day when everyone (and not just your parents) tells you that your team is the best.

Those of you who are in your first few years, you still have that opportunity, and I challenge you not to let that opportunity slip past. Although it might seem long while running suicides, lines, or doing that one drill you just hate so much, when it’s done it will feel like it went by so fast. So hate that one drill, but don’t think it means that you get to slack off. You are human, so be angry about a bad game, but don’t let it negatively affect the rest of your life. Maybe even realize that at that one moment, your best isn’t good enough, but don’t let it take any of the fight out of you.

You need to get something out of this experience because otherwise this was just a waste of time. Why else would you wake up so early for workouts and practices? Why else would you stay at up until some sort of ungodly hour at night doing homework because you didn’t have time before? Why else would you put up with your body being a wreck 90 per cent of the year? Why else would you give up weekends and holidays and summers and so much free time? Why else would you let other people yell at you so damn much?

These five years, or however long you stay for, it has to mean something. You need something that drives you, something that makes this experience mean more to you every day. And I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what that thing is going to be that motivates you. But, if you don’t make it mean something, if you don’t find something to push you forward, I promise you that you won’t get everything out of this experience. And you won’t miss it. I think that that in itself is one of the biggest failures you can manage during your time here. Leaving a commitment like this, five years of time and sweat and dedication, and not missing it means it didn’t mean something more in your life.

This is not just a time in your life where you get to play sports. It’s a time in your life for all those clichés your coaches keep telling you about. It’s a time for opportunity, for pushing yourself further than you ever thought possible, for making a difference in your own life and the lives of others. It’s a time for for growth, for making lasting connections and it’s a time in your life, I hope, for kicking some ass every once in a while. Just think about how much your team could accomplish if every single one of your teammates believed every single one of those things. Calling yourself an athlete isn’t just a cool description, it’s something you have to earn and it’s a way of life once you get there. It doesn’t end when you walk out those doors at the end of your athletic careers here.

I want to encourage you to buy into the idea of what it truly means to be a high-level athlete, so that when your time here ends one day, you do miss it. Not the kind of missing where you feel regret, or you wish you could have done things differently, but the kind of missing it where you go to watch a game of whatever sport you use to play, and you are sitting on the edge of your seat wishing you could go out there and kick some butt yourself.

Even though I am being somewhat serious and saying all these serious things, this experience is suppose to be fun too. I remember almost every part of it as fun … I even smile at the memory of my old coach Al making me feel as if I might die one practice because I had to run one too many suicides. There are countless memories and many laughs from my time here that will be forever precious to me. I think about my time as a Cascade as a life-changing experience. And I know that might sound a little cheesy, but I learned so much here. I learned not only about what it means to be an athlete, but also about the kind of person that I want to be, the kind of person I could be if I worked for it. Even though I am a UBC student now, I will always think of myself as a Cascade and I am proud of having played a varsity sport at this school.

In closing, I want to leave those of you with some time left as Cascades with a wish. A wish that you will get every ounce of opportunity out of this experience, and that it will be important to you, that it will mean something more in your life. My wish for you is that you will miss it when you are done.

For those of you moving on with your lives, I wish you the best in all the adventures ahead because life is so very exciting and I am sure it has a ton of wonderful things in store. But don’t forget about the Cascades and what this athletics program has done for you. Come back and watch a game every once in a while in the midst of taking care of all the important things in the rest of your life.

Ladies, let me tell you, you are going to miss being able to eat whatever the heck you want, and guys, we are all going to miss those muscles. But if it meant something to you, you are going to miss a lot of other things too. You need to make sure that those younger kids are going to miss it one day as well. So to everyone, those graduating from UFV and those moving onward in their years as a Cascade, good luck, and please don’t leave here one day and not miss it.

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