UTA's Elodie Tessier: Taking Challenges, Giving Smiles
Imagine pouring way too much detergent into a washing machine. What happens? Bubbles going everywhere. Then the room completely fills with bubbles. Now you have a perfect visual of Elodie Tessier - bubbles everywhere. Any room she enters becomes completely filled with her bubbly, smiling, effervescent personality. And her feat of single handedly filling the room becomes more impressive when you realize she stands at a mere 3 feet, 9 inches.
Now imagine being the person who needs to clean up all of those bubbles. Aggravation, frustration setting in? Not for Elodie. She would surely say, "Amenez-en!" (that's French for "Bring it on!") while laughing the whole time.
“Every time I have a challenge, I try to get up on my feet and smile. I am a girl that likes living, that likes experience, that likes to go out there and meets new people,” Tessier said. “I [believe] that in life that if you feel good, then you’re good, and life is going to be good.”
Coming home from school one afternoon about 12 years ago, an excited Elodie went straight to her parents to tell them about an opportunity that she learned of from a classmate.
An opportunity called wheelchair basketball.
Ecstatic to see their daughter try out something new, they brought Tessier to her first basketball practice in 2010 hoping she would enjoy it. The moment she stepped on the court, she fell in love with the sport.
“It was exciting. I was really happy to go to the gym, figure out how the sport works and how I could be good at it,” Tessier said.
Quickly learning the ins and outs of wheelchair basketball, she leaned on older players, as well as younger players who started playing earlier, to guide her in the right direction and make her a strong player.
“It is going to be tough at the beginning, but if you put time, effort, work, and patience in you’ll be good at it,” Tessier said.
She later learned what it means to have a chair that fits her and how much she would actually benefit from an adaptive chair.
“I started out with a chair that wasn’t made for me,” Tessier said. “It was fun to see how it feels to be in a chair, how to play with the ball and the people around you, how to hit. It’s different and something that you have to learn.”
Through her early years in basketball, her drive and can-do personality guided her to where she wanted her life to be.
Growing Up Different
Elodie has a twin sister, Jessica. Unlike Elodie, her sister kept growing way past 3', 9". This height put Elodie in the wheelchair because she can only walk for a short period of time before it becomes uncomfortable.
“I think it is my advantage that I am 3’9”. I really like my height,” Tessier said with her unmistakeble French accent and equally unmistakable smile.
At a young age, she wanted to do activities like her sister. Her parents did not stop her because of her height disadvantage. They encouraged her to try new things and explained to her that at times it may be difficult, but if she put her mind to it, Elodie could do anything.
“I remember being young and wanting to do the same things as my sister, but with my disability my parents always told me that I will not always be able to do the same things as Jess, but maybe different and you have to adapt and figure out your own way,” Tessier said.
Playing in wheelchair basketball, each player has a classification based on the player’s physical capacity to perform fundamental basketball movements. The classification system goes from 1 to 4.5. 4.5 means a player has the least disability. Elodie classifies as 2.5. On the court, the players' classifications get added up and must equal less than 14 to allow the team to play.
In addition, each team may have a maximum of one able-bodied person on the team.
Elodie is absolutely fine allowing able-bodied players. She believes that anybody should be permitted to play and try new things.
“I think those people. They have their struggles too. They have to learn how to push their chair, how to dribble the ball, how to push with it, and how to manage to not hit everyone,” Tessier said. “Once you sit down, you sit down. Whether you have a disability or not, we need those people to get better. We need those people to push ourselves.”
Immersing Herself In A New Culture
Originally from Saint-Germain de Grantham an hour east of Montreal, where the main language is French, Elodie Tessier never needed to speak English. That was until she decided to jump at the chance to challenge herself and play college basketball in the United States.
While training in Toronto in 2019, Tessier realized with the help of her parents that she should pursue a college degree and return to school. She wanted to find somewhere that she could start all over and be independent. The University of Texas-Arlington gave her just that.
“My first goal was to challenge myself and live where I could start again, not knowing anyone, not knowing the culture, not knowing the language because it was my first time in an English school,” Tessier said. “I think that was part of what I wanted [was] to feel like I am alone now. I needed to figure it out, but you are not alone for too long.”
Being in a new country was different for Elodie. She has never taken classes in a different language before, let alone spoken a different language before, but this challenge did not cause her smile to falter. She looked towards resources on campus to help her get through this obstacle.
“People are so open [in the United States]. I remember going there and the team, the men, the people were asking me to let them know if I needed anything,” Tessier said. “There is always someone around yourself to help you.”
Once she got adapted to college life in a new country, Elodie’s next challenge was playing for a new team.
Elodie, The Team Player
A leader for her team, Elodie pushes everyone to keep their heads up and be the best players they can be.
“Elodie is the best teammate I could ask for. Elodie is the most determined person I know, and she pushes everyone to their full potential which helps the team succeed," Emily Clarke said.
Elodie, for all of her determination, is more likely to smile than sneer on the court. Her coaches and teammates tell her she needs to be more aggressive. But her grin, according to Tessier, is a secret weapon.
“I feed on other people’s emotions when playing. It’s annoying, but I stay on them so they can’t score,” Tessier said.
Her height helps her trick her opponents into thinking that she won’t be able to stop them.
“When I was playing in the men’s league, it was funny to see big guys and tall guys being so annoyed by me because I was stopping their chair,” Tessier said. “It’s annoying because once you’re stopped you’re stopped. I’m sorry I am going to stay with you . . .”
While playing for the men’s league, Elodie used this opportunity to grow and get better as a player because they tend to play a different style. According to her, they are faster and more difficult to compete with.
“I really liked it. It helped me build on my character. I think it is really cool to grow with athletes. Men are different from women and that built my character too,” Tessier said.
Cooking Up Team Chemistry
Tessier brings her unique experiences to a UT-Arlington team that excels in blending together a range of players and personalities. This requires building a team dynamic on and off the court. Their team bonding activities include playing video games and preparing meals together.
When asked about how the team bonded over this past off-season, she could not stop giggling and smiling while talking about a cooking video game they all played.
“It was so funny. Everyone had a blast. Everyone was laughing and some of the girls were on fire because they were cooking their food for too long. It was actually really really fun,” Tessier said.
Creating bonds with her teammates outside the gym reflects on the court too by knowing each other's moves and plays.
Her team supports Elodie in everything she does. This past summer Elodie participated in the Paralympics on the Canadian team. She played against a few teammates and knew that their strong bonds wouldn’t falter because they were opponents.
“Even if we lost against the United States. in the quarterfinal, I am really happy to go back to UTA and train with the United States,” Tessier said. “ In sports, you learn at some point that there are people that win, there are people that don’t achieve what they wanted to achieve, but at the end of the day we are still people that want to perform, get challenged, to have that kind of emotion and I think I am living for that.”
Challenging herself outside of basketball
Elodie found a new passion and challenge while home for winter break this year: skiing.
“I wanted to discover myself more in winter sports so that when I go back home I have something else to do,” Tessier said.
As she entered the adaptive ski "bucket," Elodie had flashbacks to when she started with basketball in 2010. She felt that the bucket she used did not fit her, just the like the wheelchair during her first few years playing basketball.
“It’s the same thing for skiing, the bucket was not made for me. It is kind of difficult to figure out the feel of it and I think it is like the same thing in wheelchair basketball,” Tessier said.
So how does Elodie Tessier describe the experience of barreling down a mountain with far less than optimal equipment? Fun and exciting, of course.
“I was telling my parents that sometimes if I don’t try anything, you can’t risk anything. It is really exciting like a basketball game. I was really excited to try something new that I didn’t know what was going to happen and that is the feeling I am searching for in my life. I want to search for that in my daily life, a feeling that you are excited about,” Tessier said.
Ray Of Sunshine
Challenges come and go and according to Elodie, they make you who you are. Her parents have been supportive of all her endeavors, and she believes that where she is at in life now they are very proud of her.
She constantly radiates joy with her nonstop bubbly personality. And she shares the same joyous and outgoing personalities with her sister Jessica.
“We have the kind of personality where we like life and adventure,” Tessier said. “My parents are also pretty positive. They teach us that sometimes you go through stuff but you have to be patient and work for it. We have pretty good parents that always smile and are contagious about their good emotions.”
To get through most of life’s challenges, Elodie stayed bright and optimistic like the sun. The sun is a symbol of happiness and joy and her goal in life is to embody the sun and be recognized as that.
She even has a sun tattooed onto her foot so that when she looks down she can be reminded of who she is.
“It is to make sure that you are always sunny. Even if there are days that are rainy you have to make sure to stay positive,” Tessier said. “Some people describe me like the sun and I want to keep that. That’s what I want to be.”
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