By the time the summer came to a close Hayleigh Mae Watts of Tseshaht found out that she was awarded Softball B.C.’s Indigenous Minor Athlete of the Year. According to Softball BC, Watts led in the U15 B category to many achievements, and dominated all year as an elite pitcher.
“It was really exciting because I've never had an award like this before,” said Hayleigh. “So it was really nerve racking, and overall, it was just really exciting to be known that I was [Indigenous] Athlete of the Year.”
The 14-year-old player has been at it for a decade, putting her all into every practice and game.
“She's exceeded more than I’ve ever expected her [to],” said her father, Jonny Watts. “Her growth in the sport has just… excelled so quick; faster than my eyes can even see.”
“But she does put… 220 per cent into every practice,” he added. “It almost never surprises me… how well she’s done at this game.”
This year some notable tournaments Hayleigh participated in include playing with Abbotsford in the Western Canadian Championships where they took home fourth, playing in Halifax for the B.C. team at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), where she took home bronze, and in Port Alberni’s annual Mother’s Day Tournament, where she won gold.
At NAIG, Hayleigh reflects that her biggest challenge was playing other provinces for the first time. She enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends at the tournament.
For Hayleigh, softball is all about the team.
“I really enjoy, well, the game overall,” she said. “I really love team spirit and working as a team and pursuing good things with my team.”
Jonny has “hardly ever” missed a game or a practice.
“It brings me joy that he's there watching me, [and] it always reminds me to just do my best, and just to cool off if I’m having a rough time,” said Hayleigh.
Hayleigh strives to hone her skills as a pitcher and pursue her dream of playing in division one college softball in America.
“I feel like my development has really come a long way… I'm getting better as time goes on,” said Hayleigh. “Having the coaches that I have really [has] helped my game and helped my pitching and everything I do in this sport.”