Throughout her time at Lasalle
Secondary School, Nancy Schuster would dominate both the
cross-country trails and the track in her age group.
Yet through it all, basketball
remained her love, her passion.
“I had always run and
I was always naturally good at it, but running really
stressed me out,” said the 48 year old mother of
a six year old son. “I was so nervous before every
That image, however, is a
difficult one to reconcile with the young adult, then
a graduate of both Brock University and Cambrian College,
though terribly uncertain of her path in life, throwing
herself carefree into the world of international teaching.
That image of the shy, timid
but very talented runner is perhaps even more difficult
to reconcile with the now free-spirited woman who can
recount with great laughter the six-month stretch in which
she and husband (and fellow Sudburian) Lucas MacEwan spent
living out of a van in Mexico.
“My husband surfed,
some days, for maybe eight or ten hours,” she said.
“Sometimes, I would run on the beach. We were just
It’s an interesting
and highly entertaining dichotomy as one skims over the
chapters of Schuster’s life, to date, the third
of four children in the family and skilled enough athletically
to comfortably compete with both the varsity basketball
and cross-country teams in her time as a Badger.
Little wonder that Lasalle
Secondary greeted the graduate of Churchill Public School
with open arms, even as she meandered the sporting possibilities
that would lie before her.
“When I was young,
I wanted to do whatever I could - any sport at all,”
said Schuster. “I played ringette, with the city
team - we were provincial champions when I was 11. I was
a ringette goalie and I was often running between ringette
and basketball. In grade seven or eight, my teacher told
me I had to make a decision.”
It wasn’t a particularly
tough decision for the local who would earn a degree in
Psychology, would later gather her teaching accreditation
in Australia, and still works part-time in the field these
days as she enjoys life in Abbotsford, B.C.
“Basketball was my
love,” she said. “I went to running practices,
but I never skipped basketball practices.” Given
that maintaining a strong cardio base is at the core of
so many sports, including basketball, trying to remain
competitive in both was not something that was frowned
upon, even by those who live, eat and breathe life on
the hardcourt at the LancerDome.
“I don’t remember
how I would have been able to do both of the practices,
but I don’t remember it being that challenging,”
Schuster acknowledged. Lasalle coaches were no dummies.
Given the athletic potential before them, best to allow
her to try and balance both pursuits, as best as she could.
“Reflecting back, running
is likely more what I was built for, what I was made for,”
she conceded. “But we had a very good basketball
team too. When my running team came third at OFSAA, my
basketball team came third at OFSAA, the very same year.
Maybe I would have been able to do more with running.”
But her heart never quite
gravitated to it, at least not in a manner that would
equal her desire to simply head out and play hoops. For
as much as she enjoyed individual success - if memory
serves her well, Schuster recalled a 6th place finish
at OFSAA cross-country in one of her senior years - there
remained the aura around the south.
“I remember that we
always felt a little intimidated,” she said. “It
was always the fact that we were against southern Ontario,
and there was just something about that, even in basketball.
I remember being at (OFSAA) track one year and just being
in awe of some of the girls that were there.”
“We need to train harder,
I thought to myself.”
Recruited at a university
level in both disciplines (running and basketball), with
some interest shown on both sides of the border, Schuster
would commit to Brock basketball. A small handful of years
later, it was time to tackle a completely different challenge,
one which had little to do with sport.
“I was a little burnt
out on basketball by the time I left there,” she
said. “I wanted to travel and kind of thought I
wanted to be a teacher, but I wasn’t sure. And as
long as you have a degree, you can teach overseas.”
But what of the somewhat
timid soft-spoken gal we had encountered in sporting endeavours?
It was time to let loose
the more free spirited lass that lie within, apparently.
“I did a phone interview
and felt that I had a really good vibe about this,”
recalled Schuster, discussing the final steps before she
would leave for Japan, completely on her own. “I
feel like I have good instincts with that sort of thing.”
It certainly has worked out
that way. Schuster would make the most of every stop along
“They were all great,
but for different reasons,” she said. “Japan
was my first overseas teaching experience and a lot of
my students were more like university students. I had
so much fun there. They really wanted to learn to speak
english, so we would hang out on the weekends, because
I really wasn’t all that much older than they were.”
“Taiwan was great -
I played a lot of tennis and rode around on my scooter,”
Schuster continued with her ever-present smile. “In
Korea, I was teaching on their most beautiful island (Jeju
Island, their honeymoon island, just off the mainland.”
Schuster and MacEwan had
dated, for three years or so, at the tail-end of high
school and the beginning of their university studies.
While life would split them a world apart - somewhere
along the way, Schuster also spent a year in Serbia, more
or less hanging out with her grandmother - they always
stayed in touch.
Eventually, together, they
would call British Columbia home, settling in for a bit
even before the pandemic took away the choice.
“Now, I’m a trail
runner,” she said. “I’ll run the odd
time out of the roads, but any chance I get to head out
on the trails, I will. I loved the way that we did it,
that we travelled first and started other things later.
I’m still hoping to travel, when we retire.”
To this day, Nancy Schuster
follows the beat of her own drummer, be it in sport or