PORTFOLIO: Small in numbers, strong at heart

Written for The/La Source, a biweekly newspaper and site focused on diversity and community. Published in print (Oct 16 2016) and online.

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PORTFOLIO: Profile: Cap U basketball star stays humble

“I’m very competitive,” says Jenna Ralston. “I like being successful on the court and in life.”

This statement pretty much encapsulates the 25-year-old Capilano University basketball star, who added another notch to her belt last Thursday when she given the title of Sport BC’s College Athlete of the Year. Other winners of this prestigious title include sports stars Steve Nash and Rick Hansen.

Now in her final semester studying business administration, Ralston manages to maintain a 4.28 GPA while also helping to manage a construction service company. Her commitment and good memory help her keep on top of it all. “I remember the weirdest things,” says Ralston.

She began playing basketball around the age of 12 when a new neighbour and her sister would take Ralston to an open gym. “I’d just go fool around and shoot,” she says. A very active child, Ralston was put into many sports including softball and horseback riding.

“Growing up playing so many sports,” she says, “managing time is just something you did, you didn’t think about it.”

At her athletic peak, Ralston was putting almost five hours a day into honing her basketball skills, as well as three or four hours of class per day.

By Grade 9, Ralston had left her other sports behind and knew basketball was what she wanted to excel in. After playing for three years at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, she returned to B.C. and began playing for the Capilano Blues for her last two eligible years of play.

Last season, Ralston was decorated with more than 10 awards. The 5’10” power forward stays humble, and admits she’s “not good with recognition.”

She appreciates the hard work of her proud parents, Russ and Barb.

“I don’t think I’d be where I am today without them,” she says. “My dad [at the award dinner on Thursday] asked if he could take the giant poster of the nominees,” she laughs, admitting that there is now an oversized poster of her face in her living room. Her older brother Jason has also been a big support in her life.

Another help to her success was her coach at Capilano University, Paul Chiarenza. By giving Ralston the freedom to play without the threat of being put on the bench, she found the change like “night and day.”

“I over-analyze things already,” she says. “It takes that extra pressure off you… When you’re worried, you second-guess yourself.”

Ralston found Team Canada’s Teresa Gabriele to be an inspiration when she was a kid, although she doesn’t have any basketball idols anymore because she’s trying to grow and enjoy new things now that she’s finished with varsity athletics.

Ralston hopes to dabble in new activities and hobbies, like snowboarding and wake-boarding. “I want to go surfing in the summer,” she says.

While Ralston still shoots hoops with SFU alumni on occasion, she is more focused on finding a place for herself off the courts.