Yellowknife woman spins hoop dreams into reality
Hailey Tait among first N.W.T. female grads to play university basketball
A Yellowknife woman is one of the first female graduates from the N.W.T. to play university-level basketball.
Hayley Tait, 18, is heading to the University of New Brunswick this fall.
The five-foot-eight-inch guard is well known in the territory's sporting circles.
She helped Team NWT win silver in basketball at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games and is a popular volunteer coach and referee with the city's GO Ball program — a girl's only basketball club.
Tait is also the valedictorian for St. Patrick High School's graduating class of 2018.
'Excited, but nervous'
As the athlete prepares to leave the comforts of home, she has mixed feelings.
"I'm kinda itching to go, but I don't want to leave Yellowknife," she said. "Excited but nervous is the best way to put it."
Tait's hoop dreams almost didn't happen.
The B.C. university that recruited her cancelled its varsity athletics program in February.
Discouraged but not defeated, Tait contacted the University of New Brunswick at a friend's suggestion.
After an informal tryout this spring, she was selected to play as a spare.
'If you want to do something, just work at it'
Tait has had her moments of doubt. But she credits family, friends and coaches with keeping her motivated.
And she wants other northern youth to feel inspired to "keep going" too.
"It doesn't matter what other people say," said Tait. "It doesn't matter what people think. If you want to do something, just work at it. And if you work hard, you'll get to do great things."
Plenty of people are cheering for Tait, including Tobi Taylor-Dusome, a physical education teacher at St. Patrick High School.
The coach has designed one-on-one early morning practices for Tait.
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"We are really proud of her," Taylor-Dusome said. "I know the girls look up to her — my daughter being one of them — and the message is that, even if you are from a small community, you can do it."
This summer, Tait will train and compete with Swoosh Canada in Alberta — including in games in the U.S. — before heading to Fredericton to study kinesiology in the fall.