Sudbury woman scores job with the Toronto Raptors
CBC Morning North host Markus Schwabe had a chance last week to interview his own daughter, Gabrielle Schwabe, about her dream job. This story is based on that interview.
Gabrielle Schwabe landed her "dream job" when she was invited to join the staff of NBA team the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2022.
Now, at 24, Schwabe becomes one of just three women employed in team operations-equipment who travel with their respective NBA teams.
Her job is to ensure the players and coaches have everything they need to be successful, from headbands to basketball shoes. She also runs the clock during the team's practices.
Schwabe, a graduate of Laurentian University's Sports Administration (SPAD) program, travels with the team, hauling the uniforms and gear which she lays out in the locker rooms on the road.
"It's always been a dream of mine to work for the Toronto Raptors, but it's more of one of those dreams that you don't actually think is ever going to come true," Schwabe said.
"Honestly, every day I still pinch myself," she said. "When we get on a plane, I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, what am I doing? We're flying like, on this crazy plane. And here's little old me traveling with an NBA team to another city."
Schwabe said she grew up a Raptors fan, devoutly watching players like José Calderón and Andrea Bargnani on television, including their epic 2019 playoff run and eventual championship.
After spending a year as Canada Basketball's coordinator of women's basketball operations, Schwabe threw her hat into the ring when a position opened up with Major League Sports Entertainment (MLSE), the company that owns both the Raptors and the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs.
She didn't expect to land the job, but after several zoom calls and in-person meetings with Raptors executives, Schwabe received a fateful phone call from the team's vice president of operations.
"The way she started the call off, I kind of thought she was letting me down because she was thanking me for all the time and for being patient," Schwabe said. "So my heart kind of sunk…Then she said 'we would love to have you on board."
"Everything from that point on was just a blur," she said. "Just a blur of emotion."
Schwabe had two weeks to pack her bags and make it to Los Angeles to join the team as they readied for the 2022/23 season. There, she said, walking among athletes she had watched on the screen, she became a little star struck.
"These are the people that you've been idolizing the past 15 years of your life and you're in a room with them," she said. "You're impacting their lives and what they do."
"It was just a lot. It's crazy."
She also met others on the operations side, including Paul Elliott, who cut his teeth in the equipment world years ago when the Raptors were a fledgling expansion team.
"Initially I thought it might be tough for Gabrielle because the bags are [heavy]," Elliott said. "But now, I seen the guns on her and how she's improved in the weight room and she seems to be throwing those bags around without incident."
"She's really come a long way," Elliot said. "We're proud of her."
Curtis Andrade, the Raptors' head of equipment, said Schwabe's also been able to adapt to the league's rigourous lifestyle.
"It's not like a 9-to-5 job," Andrade said. "We don't clock in at nine knowing that we're out at five. We clock in knowing that we need to get this, this and this done."
"And you know, she's done a great job in understanding that…working day and night to make sure that the operation runs as smoothly."
Just a blur of emotion. - Gabrielle Schwabe, on working with the Toronto Raptors
As for Schwabe, she said she isn't taking the opportunity for granted. She doesn't take lightly that even though the job is a "grind," working with the Raptors is still the stuff that dreams are made of.
"There are still some times when I get a little shell shocked," she said.
"When [former Raptors all-star] DeMar DeRozan walked back in this laundry room, I freaked out a little bit inside because he was my favourite player growing up," Schwabe said.
"For where I'm at right now in life, I think it's the perfect job for me," she said. "I truly love it. I sleep at night loving my job. I wake up in the morning loving my job and everything in between."
"I just feel really fortunate to be where I'm at."
Click here to listen to Markus Schwabe's full documentary about his daughter's journey to the NBA.