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Yellowknife basketball player to play with University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds

Yellowknife NT — Basketball NWT is pleased to announce that Hayley Tait will be joining the University of New Brunswick (UNB) Varsity Reds basketball team starting the September 2018 season. Hayley is the first female basketball player from the NWT to be chosen to be chosen for a U SPORTS basketball team.

“This is a milestone for Basketball NWT as well as for Hayley,” notes Damien Healy, President of BNWT. “We’re a small jurisdiction with few teams. We’ve got players who come to us with lots of potential, but it can be challenging to create the type of competitive environment consistently needed to develop high performance athletes in a team sport. But it can be done. Hayley’s success shows that with lots of hard work, and good supports, NWT players can go on to play at the university level.”

Hayley’s exposure to basketball started with GO (Girls Only) Ball, a specialized program conceived and started by local coach, Mel Bard, to get girls interested in the sport and to create a feeder for high performance basketball. It worked for Hayley. She went on to play with the Yellowknife High Performance team for 5 years, and was the team’s co-captain in her final two years.

Hayley has played on team NWT at the National Basketball Championships, Western Canada Summer Games, and two Arctic Winter Games. Hayley was captain of the 2018 AWG team that brought home a silver ulu. Hayley was awarded a Fair Play award at the Fort Smith games. Hayley played for St. Patrick High School on the senior team for the last four years. She was selected for the NWT’s Canada Games team in 2017, but unfortunately, the team was disbanded prior to the games because there weren’t enough qualified players to field a team.

Good role models and dedicated coaches helped to shape Hayley’s play and her sport leadership. Not only a player, Hayley gives back to the sport as a referee for GO Ball, the annual Cager and Arctic Shoot Out Tournaments and Ladies’ League basketball. She has also coached St. Pat’s junior Cager team for the past two years.

“I had great coaches right from the beginning,” says Hayley Tait. “First there was Mel Bard — she was my very first coach. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be playing at all. Then Nikki Grobbecker, Cole Marshall, Lana Bromley, and Shaun Doherty. They not only taught me how to play, they supported me and they pushed me to become a better player. And when I hit bumps in the road, they were there to help pick me up, brush me off, and get my head back on straight. I learned something different from each of them.”

“I’m also grateful to Coach Jeff Speedy UNB for giving me a chance to be a Varsity Red.” Hayley’s road to UNB wasn’t a straightforward one. She was originally recruited last summer by Quest, a small university in Squamish. Shortly before university enrolment deadlines this winter, Quest announced the cancellation of all Varsity Sports. “I lost my opportunity to play basketball, and I’d stopped looking at other universities. I’d stopped looking to be identified by other coaches because I thought I had found my spot,” says Hayley. “The coach at Quest helped me connect with Coach Speedy, who decided to give me an opportunity with the Varsity Reds. I am working hard now to get my skills where they need to be to compete at the U SPORT level, and to show Coach Speedy that he made a good choice.”

The Varsity Reds play in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport League (U SPORTS). The Reds compete against teams in the Atlantic Sport Conference including Dalhousie, UPEI, and St. Francis Xavier, among others.