Concordia Stingers basketball forward Serena Tchida battled adversity to get to where she is today
In 2019, Serena Tchida’s collegiate basketball career was taking off. Playing for Cégep Édouard-Montpetit, her knack for rebounding and finishing around the rim was able to draw the attention of Concordia Stingers head coach Tenicha Gittens in January.
Tchida had excelled in basketball since she first picked up the sport at 15 years old. Now, in the midst of recruitment, all the six-foot forward needed was to showcase her abilities one more time.
She had no idea that would be the last five-on-five game she would play.
“In the first quarter, I partially tore my ACL,” Tchida said. “I had never been injured before besides some ankle issues, so during the game I wanted to go back on the court and play through it. I knew coach [Gittens] was recruiting me but my coach at the time told me to slow down and sit for the game because it’s my knee.”
Tchida took some time to rest in the days following the game and managed to reduce the swelling in her right knee. Upon returning to practice with her team, despite the precautions she would fully tear her ACL.
“There were times when I wanted to quit [basketball], but coach [Gittens] helped steer me back in the right direction. She was there through it all,” Tchida said.
The road to recovery in sports is impossible to accurately document. For every moment of glory in an athlete’s career, there is potential suffering around the corner. All the hard work and repetitions put in the gym behind the scenes can come crashing down with a single misstep, and prompt years of devotion towards simply being you again.
Unfortunately for many student athletes, sustaining a major injury will beat them to the ground. Tchida said it tested her mentality more than anything. “Honestly, I feel like I’m stronger now,” Tchida said. “Now I think my injured [right] knee is stronger than my left. The MRI, rehab, and surgery was all taken care of by Concordia and coach [Gittens] because I was still being recruited, so recovering properly definitely helped.”
“What made it so tough was that I was still studying at Édouard-Montpetit, but I was getting treatment on my knee at
Concordia. So I was travelling between two schools and home every day.” she added.
Tchida’s battles with injuries wouldn’t end there. While rehabbing from her ACL injury, she pulled her hamstring which kept her out of action for the entire 2019-20 basketball season.
She described her experience as a rookie, and not being able to play and contribute to her team, as strenuous.
“As a first-year, I felt a little bit out of place with the change in school,” Tchida said. “Under normal circumstances, I could play and connect with my teammates on the court but I was still rehabbing from my injuries. Again, coach [Gittens] was amazing to me and helped me find my place and feel comfortable.”
Once March 2020 rolled around and in-person activities were cancelled in response to the global pandemic, the women’s basketball team met online three times a week and continued to train with weights from home. In the summer of that year, government regulations permitted groups to train outside as long as physical distancing rules were respected as much as possible. Tchida said the team was split into groups for guards and forwards and would meet at 6 a.m. to train. In the fall, things shut down once more.
“During that time, I connected with my teammates a lot and now we are like sisters. So it was really difficult when we had to go back to meeting online. I honestly don’t remember what we did after that, everything passed by like a blur,” Tchida said.
To help the team cope with ongoing stress, Gittens set up weekly online meetings during the semester that were focused solely on talking amongst each other.
“We would talk about things that were not related to basketball, just connecting with each other and letting out our emotions. It was an amazing idea by coach [Gittens] and another reason for why she’s so great.”
When Montreal became a COVID-19 green zone, the team took their outdoor training back to the gymnasium, where they would practice three times a week. With the resumption of school and basketball season around the corner, the team upped their practice regiment to five times a week on top of weight training sessions.
Tchida has been on a long and strenuous road to recovery since early 2019, the last time she participated in a high-level basketball game. There were bumps and bruises along the way, but the Stingers forward going into her third year at Concordia University is finally ready to make her presence on the court known.
“It’s been so long since I’ve played five-on-five, so I’m honestly a bit nervous,” Tchida said. “But I’m trying to take it one day at a time and focus on the things I can control.”
“I’m confident in the work I put in during practice and my recovery, so I’m hoping to show people I came out of this long break as a more complete basketball player.”
Photographs by Catherine Reynolds