HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Rosie Warden loved basketball and the game loved her. Rosie Warden loved the Boys and Girls’ Club of Ottawa and the campers loved her. Rosie Warden loved her family and her children loved her.
Tenacious, hard working, dedicated and caring, when you connected with Warden, you were impacted by someone extraordinary, someone who was committed to her cause, positive and was greatly considerate of how others felt. She loved people.
In a nutshell, Warden grew up at the Boys and Girls’ Club of Ottawa immersed herself into basketball and came back to the club as an adult. She took her polished playground ball skills to St. Patrick’s High School and Carleton University and developed into an award-winning player.
After graduation in 2001 and passing on an opportunity to play professionally in Europe because of a knee injury, Warden continued to love the game as a referee and coach. She brought that love of the game home to her children.
Today, Warden’s skill and determination is reflected in her son AJ Osman, 15, who is attending St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, ON. AJ is recognized as a quality player, who will catch the eye of university recruiters.
Three years ago, the upbeat and smiling role model was assessed the ultimate foul. Warden would have pleaded her innocence, but there was no ref in sight. She had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She passed Nov. 10 at age 42.
“Rosie was tenacious on the basketball court, one of the toughest players ever,” wrote her Carleton University Ravens coach Alex Overwijk in an e-mail interview. “Rosie always had a smile on her face and had a kind word for everyone. She was an exceptional human being.”
Warden played four years at Carleton and was one of the pillars of the team that went from 0-20 in the OUA East in her freshman year (1997-98) to a fourth-place 8-12 showing, the playoffs and the team’s best record in 17 years (2000-01).
In her senior year (2000-01), Warden was honoured as the OUA East defensive player of the year, a league all-star for the third consecutive season, and was named the most valuable player on the Carleton women’s basketball team for a third time in her career.
Overwijk was introduced to Warden by former Carleton coach John Scobie, who would coach her in her senior year. “What impressed me immediately about Rosie was she was very tenacious and was an excellent athlete,” Overwijk added.
“Rosie brought it every day. She was a big part of creating a culture of grinding it out day in and day out,” he wrote. And she did that in the face of three unproductive seasons – combined 5-55 OUA and 16-66 overall – before her highlight fourth year.
Ottawa’s Nadine Crowley, a retired international basketball referee, officiated many of Warden’s games and then watched her develop into a quality referee in the Ottawa basketball community with a “strong, calm and approachable manner.”
Crowley considered Warden “a gifted athlete and an intense competitor,” and admired her “positivity, strength and courage, and appreciated her no-nonsense attitude. I truly respected the loyalty and love she had for her family and friends.”
Warden carried a high basketball IQ onto the court. While encouraging and supporting her teammates, she wasn’t afraid to challenge the referees “to work hard to keep up with her high-level basketball skills,” according to Crowley.
“Rosie was a physical player, who was always in the thick of the action,” Crowley said via e-mail. “She was always talking and did not hesitate to let referees know what they had missed on the court, but was quick with a sly smile, a funny quip, after sharing what was on her mind.”
Warden was a well-respected referee because of her basketball knowledge, being a firm decision maker and “balanced her authority with being fair to those in the game,” Crowley said.
Investing a lot of her spare time to either coaching or refereeing at the Boys and Girls’ Club of Ottawa, Warden mentored young officials and volunteered to join the Foundations for Access to Basketball Referee Mentorship Program at the club’s Dumaurier site.
Warden started at club as a member of the Police Youth Centre. After university, she became a part-time senior worker and then a full-time youth development program specialist at the Rochester clubhouse.
Her final assignment at the club was as manager of the outdoor education and leadership camp program. When COVID-19 closed the overnight camps this summer, Warden used the opportunity to find other ways to connect with counselors, campers and family.
“I cannot image a person who has a bigger heart,” wrote Adam Joiner, the club’s CEO, in an e-mail interview. “Rosie embodied positivity, even in her brave fight with cancer. Rosie’s smile could light up the room.
“But more, (she) made our members feel that they had someone who truly cared about them. She was incredibly hard working and dedicated. She loved camp. She loved her family (and her extended basketball and club family).
“She loved making a difference in the lives of children and youth. Over the past few days, I’ve had dozens of former members reach out to share stories of how amazing she was and the difference she made for them.”
Warden was an incredible leader who cared about her own and club children and a true example of hard work gets the job done. “Ottawa was lucky to have her impact in so many ways,” Joiner added. “I’m lucky to have called her a friend.”
At the same time she worked tirelessly with the youth at the club, she was a loving mother. “There are many people in the Ottawa community who would attribute their love for the game because of what Rosie Warden did for them,” Overwijk added.
“Maybe her greatest contribution is her role as a mother. Rosie has raised her children to be the type of people that all of us would be proud of as parents. Her impact is legendary. She will be missed.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.