This article was first written for and published by Siren Sport.
Katie-Rae Ebzery talks about the Tokyo Olympics, her role in the Opals leadership squad and visibility for women’s basketball with Siren Collaborator Mary Konstantopoulos.
The twelve women selected to represent the Australian Opals at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games are an incredible group. The squad includes some of the most talented and dynamic basketballers in the world including the likes of star Elizabeth Cambage. There are women who have represented their country on multiple occasions including Marianna Tolo, Cayla George and Jenna O’Hea. There are also some new faces too, with Tess Magden set to make her Olympic debut next month.
Given the experience of many of these women, it comes as no surprise that the Opals are a group full of strong leaders. One of the women who is part of the Opals leadership squad is Katie-Rae Ebzery.
Ebzery has played over 200 games in the WNBL for several clubs including the Sydney University Flames and the Perth Lynx. She has won bronze at the 2011 and 2013 World University Games, represented Australia at an Olympics already back in 2016, won gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 and has also won silver medals at the FIBA Asia Cup and a World Cup.
But despite all her achievements on the basketball court, Ebzery is still learning.
“Over the last couple of years, I have had the chance to develop my leadership style,” said Ebzery.
“I have learnt that I am someone that likes to lead by example; if I am expecting something off someone, I need to be replicating that too and already be doing it myself.
“That’s the way I like to lead. I wouldn’t ask anything of anyone in the group that I’m not already doing myself.
One of Ebzery’s focuses over the last couple of years has been communication. Given her vast experience with local, state and national teams, Ebzery understands the importance of communication and has come to realise that different players have different needs in this space.
“With the Opals, I play a supporting role to some of the other leaders in the group,” said Ebzery.
“Where I can really help out is communicating with the other members of the team, thinking about how I speak to them and also giving constructive feedback.
“I can also help by playing really hard and leading from that perspective. Defensively I like to set the tone for the team and also contribute in that way.”
Part of being an effective leader is that constant learning and given the challenges of the last 12-18 months, Ebzery has had plenty of opportunity to reflect.
“It’s been a challenging period because as athletes, our lives are pretty planned out with training and with competition,” said Ebzery.
“When that gets thrown out the window, it just puts things into chaos.
“Even just the simplest of things like whether we could continue training, where we could continue training and then for someone like me, relocating in order to keep training.”
It’s been a messy last couple of months, but for Ebzery it has reminded her that she does have the ability to cope with challenging situations.
“I’ve been pretty resilient with being able to keep things going, to keep training and to keep working things out on the fly,” she said.
“I think everyone has learnt a little bit about themselves over the last 12-18 months, so I’m just happy to be heading to the Olympics.
“It makes all the hard work worth it.”
Now that Ebzery has her ticket to Tokyo, she and her teammates are hoping that a successful Olympic campaign will help strengthen the current momentum around women’s basketball.
With a new broadcast arrangement announced for the WNBL last year and a FIBA Women’s World Cup on home soil to look forward to in 2022, Ebzery hopes that this will lead to some additional recognition for Australia’s exceptional women’s basketballers.
“It’s about time, but I think as female basketballers in this country, we want to see a bit more,” said Ebzery.
“We can only continue to put our best foot forward and showcase the great talent we have in the team.”
But for Ebzery, crucial to being able to showcase the talent is visibility. That’s why global events like an Olympics and a home World Cup can really be game changers.
“If you can’t see it, then there’s no way for people to know about it.”
“It all starts with visibility as it does for all sports.
“As athletes we know the quality of our WNBL and of the Opals, it’s just around how we can get more people in the door, because when they come out to a game of women’s basketball people always have a positive experience.”
And that is certainly Ebzery’s parting message.
“That’s the closing story for anyone that has never been to a women’s game of basketball and has preconceived ideas about what it might be like,” she said.
“Get out to a game and see how talented these women are; I guarantee you your perception will start to change.”