by Meredith Dault
3rd December 2010
Though PhD candidate Ryley Beddoe says that putting on a Queen's jersey for the first time was an "amazing experience," her first game with the varsity basketball team was a blur. "I really don't remember the first game because I was so nervous," she laughs, thinking back to the first game in September. It was, after all, something she had been waiting a very long time for.
That's because Beddoe had been intending to play varsity basketball since starting her undergraduate degree in engineering at Queen's more than a decade ago. She had even been in touch with the basketball coach while still in high school. But when she started her program, Beddoe says she had a change of heart. "I was concerned I wouldn't be able to handle basketball and school," she says, "and I was worried about missing out on all the other things I had heard that athletes don't normally get to participate in."
And so, she didn't try out for the team. "It was one of those things that then sat there as a massive regret," she says bluntly of her decision. "It's something I would change if I could go back and do it again." Instead, Beddoe became a fan. "Every year, I would watch them play, and I'd watch the team evolve," she recalls, "and I'd think, I could be doing that."
In the meantime, she earned her degree in civil engineering, and then embarked on a second degree in education - also at Queen's. Beddoe, who had worked as a director with Camp Outlook (a camp for youth at risk), knew she loved teaching and working with young people. But when she found herself considering a long-term career teaching with a local school board, she knew it wasn't quite the right fit.
It was a chance encounter with some former professors at a Tim Horton's on campus (Beddoe was back visiting friends) in 2006 that brought her back into the academic fold. "They asked me ‘what are you doing these days!," she recalls with a laugh. Though she was about to go travelling for two months, Beddoe was convinced to return in time to begin a Master's degree in Engineering. But playing basketball still wasn't part of the plan.
That all changed when she finished her degree. "I had no plans to do a PhD," says Beddoe, who is currently studying geo-technical engineering within the department of Civil Engineering. Her current research is around landslides, and how climate change will impact their severity. "Because it doesn't matter how strong or fantastic you design your building," she explains. "If you put it on soil that can't support it, you're in trouble." Beddoe's work is based in a lab where she studies landslides created in a flume ("it's basically like a massive slide") that is filled with sand.
And it was finally, at the start of her PhD -- her fourth degree program at Queen's -- that Beddoe took the leap and tried out for the varsity basketball team. "I thought, I am always going to regret this," she explains, "I have regretted this for ten years. I have nothing to lose." She approached the team's coach, Dave Wilson, and asked about joining the team, and he invited her to try a practice. "Luckily he never sent me home," she says with a laugh.
Beddoe beams when she talks about her teammates - many of whom are at least ten years her junior. "They are a phenomenal group of players," she says admirably. Beddoe says booking the practices and games into her graduate student schedule -- two hour practices, four days a week, with games on both Friday and Saturday during the season -- is challenging, but worthwhile.
"It definitely slows down research a little, but I have a really supportive supervisor, Dr Andy Take, who is wonderful about it," she says gratefully. In terms of time management, Beddoe says her time these days is devoted to school work and basketball. "I don't get to see my friends as often, or get to trivia night at the grad club anymore," she says, "but I get to play basketball, and that's worth those sacrifices."