Kennedy Werre still remembers the first time she stepped onto the basketball court as a Medicine Hat College Rattler.
“I was going in for a sub and I was so scared. I had no idea what to expect. I think I messed up, honestly, probably turned the ball over,” admits Werre. “But once that first shift was done, everything was fine.”
Now, everything is more than fine. Five years later, Werre is the most decorated athlete in Rattlers history with a long list of provincial awards and records attached to her name; including ACAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, ACAC All Conference Player, ACAC All Academic Athlete, and Academic All-Canadian – just to name a few. She also broke two ACAC records with the most defensive rebounds in a single season and the most career rebounds, before finishing the her final year as a Rattler with a trip to the CCAA National Championship in New Brunswick.
But the sport means so much more to Werre than awards and recognition. She started playing basketball in elementary school with the encouragement of Rob Grisonich, principal at Notre Dame Academy and current assistant coach of the Rattlers women’s basketball team. She went on to participate in Rattlers camps prior to attending MHC and had the opportunity to practice with the Rattlers team and learn the expectations of collegiate sport. Not only did the sport keep her active, it helped her cope with and find direction in other aspects of her life.
“If I feel stressed, I go and shoot hoops. It is my calming mechanism. With basketball, you can always be training whether it is by yourself or with other people.”
Werre arrived at MHC ready to play basketball but found herself feeling lost that first year.
“I knew I wanted to play basketball but that’s all I knew. Jason McLester [my coach] purposely had someone look out for me because I was so disorganized. He’s been my rock,” recalls the 22-year-old. “I was switching programs but I finally found something and it was because of sport.”
After leading several Rattlers children’s camps, Werre realized she loved coaching. Wanting to give back and make a difference in the lives of others like Grisonich made a difference in her life, she decided teaching was her future. She was also named captain of the basketball team in her third year, which brought with it a new level of leadership and expectation.
Werre recently finished a five-week practicum at Notre Dame Academy where she had the opportunity to put her leadership skills to the test. Juggling a hectic basketball schedule with teaching and coaching commitments made for a challenging month but she loved every minute of it.
“From where I was in first year to now, I’m a completely different person,” says Werre, who has one year left in the Bachelor of Education program offered in collaboration with Mount Royal University.
“It’s crazy how much sport and school together forces you to grow up.”
The process hasn’t been easy. In addition to the typical challenges facing students trying to balance academics with athletics, Werre’s team was forced to deal with tragedy in 2016 when they lost one of their own in a car accident. With an important game just a few days later, the team came together and played in honour of their friend.
“We did it for her. It was the most emotional game I’ve ever been in but it showed the character of our team. We all leaned on each other and the support was phenomenal,” says Werre of the team, the Rattlers family and the entire ACAC organization.
Basketball and her own personal motto – outwork – have also helped her persevere through her years at MHC.
“I owe everything to that idea. If you are willing to work hard and give everything you have to something, I strongly believe you will be successful,” says Werre. “Now I want to give back to the community and the sport because of what they have done for me.”
Photos [left to right]: Werre shows concentration on the court; receives the Female Athlete of the Year Award from Irlanda Price, associate vice-president of student development [left] and Donna Schneider, president of the Rattlers Booster Club [right].
While the awards and recognition she has earned as a Rattler are appreciated, it is the friendships and the connections to the community that mean the most to Werre.
“No matter what, every year you’re given a team of sisters and the memories you share with them on and off the court is something you’ll never forget.”
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