We R Strong and We R Proud

One of the amazing attributes of sport is the power it has to influence and promote change on such a remarkable scale. Many athletes see sport as a platform for social change and have pushed the envelope to promote equality and understanding. At ONE Volleyball, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by a community of strong and motivated individuals - individuals who are making waves in their own communities and influencing not only our generation but the generation of youth to follow.

In light of International Women's Day and the #beboldforchange movement, we are excited to introduce you to Becky Zeeman. Becky is an inspiring individual and a powerful female leader in the volleyball community. After playing professional volleyball overseas with her husband, Joren Zeeman, Becky took advantage of an opportunity to step back on the court with the Ryerson Women's Volleyball team. Inspired by her experiences, and with a new platform of influence through her Ryerson community, Becky decided to undertake a series of projects focusing on women in sport which aims to change attitudes and promote self-confidence. Check out more about Becky's experiences below and join the conversation today!

Club: Ottawa Kangaroos & National Capitals
University: Queen’s University & Ryerson University
Professional: TV Gladbeck, Germany; V.V. Grimma, Germany

Tell me a little bit more about your decision to go back to Ryerson and play for another year.

The decision to use my 5th and final year of eligibility with Ryerson this season was very complex. It all started when I noticed how restless I was while on the sidelines during practices and games working as the full-time assistant coach at Ryerson. My player’s flame had clearly not been fully extinguished even though I found myself in my dream career. The drive to be physical and competitive again was something that I needed to pursue after learning that I still had the opportunity to use my final year. Originally, I thought that the rules were the same for women as they are for men in terms of losing USports eligibility after being paid by a professional club team. Well let me tell you, they are not. It’s this reverse sexism loophole that I decided to take advantage of. After I discovered I could legally play, I consulted with my husband, Joren, to see if becoming a student again could really work. The next step was to discuss with coach Dustin. How would this dual role affect the team? What were my goals for contributing to the team? How would my coaching responsibilities change? These were all very important questions that we took many months to consider in order to make sure we were making the right decision in the team’s best interest.

What was your biggest motivation to go back and what did this year mean to you?

A few of my motivating factors to play again were; to make an impact as an experienced veteran leader on the team, to help transform the team culture, to use my body in a purposeful physical way again, to feel the rush of pressure in competition, to be a part of a team again, to compete in meaningful competitions such as OUA championship and Nationals - which we are hosting at Ryerson this season.

This team and this season means an enormous amount to me. Not only is it my full-time job, but it’s also my passion, my family, my goals, my social community, my personal and professional development and, my pride. I give a lot of myself to this team and this program daily and I am so privileged to be a part of such a great group of people.

Unfortunately I suffered a season ending injury on Feb 8th, which then turned most of what I was expecting and planning for, completely upside-down. I broke my left leg during a match and it couldn’t have happened at more poorly timed moment. I went from being the most fit and athletic that I’ve ever been with playoffs and nationals right around the corner to not being able to walk for 4 months and needing surgery.

What have you learned from your season ending injury and what is the biggest advice you would provide to your team heading into Final four and Nationals in the coming weeks?

As heartbreaking and disappointing as this injury has been it’s given me an entirely fresh perspective on sport and life, which I’m very thankful for. Obviously it crushes me to not be able to finish the season on the court after all the hard work I’ve put in in the gym, the weight room, the classroom and so on but at least I can still be apart of the team during this historic season. It’s hard to appreciate everything you have until something is gone. What I’ve really taken from this injury is how lucky I am to have so many amazing opportunities to temporarily lose in the first place - like ability to walk, play sports and compete in meaningful championships. Not everyone has those chances to begin with at all, so for that, I am extremely grateful.

My message to the girls before every match this season shared a similar theme; they were just dressed in different costumes. Appreciate every opportunity you have to compete together because these moments won’t last forever. Don’t get hung up on the negative because the future needs your full attention and commitment, and celebrate greatness as if it is your last match. I’m very satisfied to have had that mindset throughout the entire season, right from the beginning, because I knew it would be my last season. I just didn’t know it would end a month and a half early before all the excitement and pressure. One silver lining to all of this is that a different player on the team gets to hit the court and experience the most thrilling and emotional matches of the season. Here I come beach season and ONE Volleyball tournaments!!

What inspired you to start this campaign #weRstrongandweRproud?

This female athlete body image campaign is actually 1 of 5 projects I’ve been working on this season that embody the theme of women in sport. I’m fortunate enough to have a very sturdy influence as a player and coach and connections within Ryerson, which have allowed me to make all of these ideas come to life. I was actually inspired by the confidence and carefree attitude of my tree planting community this past summer to look, dress, act and be whatever makes you feel happy. If only I could bring this attitude into the real world, how wonderful would that be?

"Our bodies should be cherished for all of the amazing things they allow us to do." - Becky Zeeman, Ryerson University Volleyball

"Our bodies should be cherished for all of the amazing things they allow us to do." - Becky Zeeman, Ryerson University Volleyball

Female athletes have a strange and unnecessary hill to climb with the mass media pushing skinny, near frail women, with “perfect” 0 sized figures and, no imperfections as the way all women need to look in order to be beautiful. One goal of this particular campaign is for women and men alike to see that women are comfortable and proud to have muscles and to be strong. That a woman’s beauty comes in so many forms and sizes and by caring for your body in whatever way you choose is beautiful, just be confident about it. What’s so amazing about this campaign is the way it makes our girls feel about themselves. Not only is it showing their pride in their own bodies and showcasing the hard work they’ve put in to achieve their strength but it reaffirms the confidence they have thanks to the enormous amount of support we’ve been getting on social media. I also love the idea of having a quote written by each athlete to include with the photo. This adds a really special personal touch to the message and post each day. Moral of the story, everyone needs to go tree planting! ;)

What do you find are some of the biggest setbacks or barriers you see women still facing in sport?

Each project has it’s own unique message addressing women but more importantly men. In order to effect the most change we need to be realistic and recognize that men hold the majority of influential positions in sport. If we want to see the gender parity in sport shrink we can’t just preach to the choir about our issues, we need to influence and get the men on board as well.

I tribute many supportive men in my life for assisting me in my development to get me where I am today, starting with my father. Dustin is also a significant person in my life who’s offered me great opportunities of growth and responsibility. It’s really wonderful to have a mentor with a feminist mindset; he continues to be an ally for me and my ideas.

If there is one thing you want women and young girls to take away from this campaign, what would it be?

Our bodies should be cherished for all of the amazing things they allow us to do. My hopes from this campaign are that girls and women of all ages can learn to treat their own bodies with love and care as well as learn to feel confident and proud of their bodies. It’s great to have personal body goals but it’s also important to be happy with what you’ve got as you work towards your goals.

Another project in the Women in Sport series that Becky has been working on is a documentary called "The Future of Sport is Female" featuring Ryerson employees and athletes. Just released today, you can check out the documentary here: