Tell us a little bit about yourself and who you are.
- My name is Cassandra Breen, but many call me Cassie or Cass. I am currently a professional basketball player in London. This will be my fourth season overseas and second season in London. Growing up I found myself confused regarding the person I was. Not only am I known as Cassandra, Cassie, and Cass, but also an athlete, student, friend, daughter, and sister. I found it hard to find and define who I was, personally. I had so many external definitions of who I was, but I did not who I was internally. I grew up in a family with a mother and father and I am the youngest of three with two older brothers. So, I pretty much grew up competitive and wanting to be just like the boys. There again is another definition, most referred to me as a tomboy. My mother tried to convince me that it was a phase, but I knew different as I was in 3rd grade and had my first girl crush. At that time, I made a vow to never come out until I was in college because I didn’t want the drama or to be an embarrassment. So, I just focused on sports and fell in love with basketball.
- There are times where I struggle with defining who I am, but what I will say is that I strive every day to be me and live a life that my 12-year-old self would be excited to see. In my efforts, I strive for kindness, love, passion, happiness, gratitude, lots of laughs, smiles and being around good company.
What are some of your goals in life?
- Staying curious and childlike within the world. Yes, there are times to be serious and times to be a jokester, but ther is almost always good in every situation. So, staying playful is one goal that will stay with me.
- To give back to the youth, especially young women in sport. There have been many amazing trailblazing women before me and to be able to contribute in the slightest to the next generation of women would be so filling.
How do you define being an athlete?
- Being an athlete these days is like being a warrior in society. Many times, it is the athletes that are the trendsetters or the social voices that society needs for change because of all the fan bases. However, I think a more general definition is a person who loves movement. You don’t have to know how to dunk a ball or run fast around a track, athletes come in all different shapes, sizes, athletic abilities, and activities.
What are some goals as a professional athlete?
- In college, I was big on individual goals. I wanted many awards for myself which ultimately drove me to be extremely critical of myself. Basketball is a tough sport to be number 1 and it led me down a path that even though I was working hard every day I still didn’t feel good enough. In my second year playing professionally, I just let go of all of those individual goals and focused on having fun and remembering that I love the sport before all the accolades.
- My goal now is to be the best teammate I can be, while also knowing that I am helping my team to achieve our team goals and getting buckets the way I know how (hahaha)!
How have you come to embrace your identity?
- I have come to embrace my identity by taking time to just be with me and really understand my core values. I have become a friend and teammate to myself by writing almost all my thoughts in journals and my emotions in poetry. I challenge myself to branch out and try new things that may make me uncomfortable or give me a new perspective. I find that it is one of my favorite parts of my identity, being curious about the world around me.
So often our sports have had gendered terms, such as female/male athlete. What are your thoughts on it being gendered?
- As I have grown up, this question has become more and more interesting to me. I think that it’s hard to define a team with gendered terms because there are so many moving parts. For the longest time I had male coaches growing up, then in college, I had female coaches with male trainers and managers, and now, professional male coaches. As much as it’s about the athletes on a team, there are also so many different personalities and people that it takes to build a team. Like many people say, “It takes a village.” So, I tend to express my thoughts in gender terms as they/them when talking about my team. I believe that there’s always, 100%, an individual choice when expressing gender terms, but for me, a more generalized term like they/them just flows better for me when referring to athletes.
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned through sports?
- One of the biggest lessons I have learned is body awareness. Basketball, like life, is fast pace and to be able to register how my body feels in each experience, then performing what I feel like is the correct action, is extremely liberating to me. When I was a young athlete I was extremely emotional and often told to stop being so emotional or I would not be able to reach the heights I wanted to go. I suppressed my emotions and tried to push them away. Now, being older with a better understanding that “stop being emotional” was just guidance to have a nonattachment relationship with these emotions then let them go.