Basketball’s popularity in the Maritimes is about to be put to the test. In May of 2022, the Maritimes Women’s Basketball Association will tip off, marking the beginning of the first women’s basketball league, professional or amateur, in the country.
League commissioner Tasia McKenna, who is the technical director of Basketball Nova Scotia, said the idea of a women’s basketball league had been something she had thought about for some time.
It was put into motion last summer when McKenna and former Basketball New Brunswick President Brad Janes came up with the idea. McKenna said she knew right away she wanted to be a part of it.
“[Janes] was the visionary behind it and once I found out who he had spoken to, it was ‘yeah, I want to help,'” said McKenna.
The amateur league currently features six teams — two in Halifax and a Windsor team for three in Nova Scotia. New Brunswick will also have three teams from Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John. McKenna said she hopes for a Prince Edward Island team to join and mentioned the possibility of a Newfoundland and Labrador team.
Samantha Stordy, a second-year St. Thomas University student and women’s Tommies’ basketball player, said she’s excited to see the league start.
She said there’s always talk of the men’s side of basketball and what they have to offer after high school and university games, so the MWBA will do the same for Atlantic female basketball players, rather than having to stop playing once they graduate.
“I know many players feel discouraged and just chose to stop playing,” said Stordy. “Having this league will help encourage others to continue to play and give something to young female athletes to look forward to.”
The Tommies forward said she definitely sees herself playing in the league, where it’s offered in her off-season, giving her a chance to improve her skills. The league will feature past and present players who may have never played against each other. Stordy said the possibility of playing against former All-Canadians and potentially professionals will only make her better.
While the MWBA has goals to grow women’s basketball across the Maritimes, McKenna wants the platform to be used for social justice as well.
McKenna said she wants to strive for equality, supporting Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ+ community and groups such as Stop Violence Against Women and No More Stolen Women. She said some of her ideas include potentially bringing in guest speakers during half time and having land acknowledgements before the national anthem.
“The athletes that are going to play in this league are so diverse,” she said. “The hope is that everyone feels like when they walk into the gym, or walk into practice … if they were treated poorly, they have the support of us.”