Eighteen-year-old Hailey de Leon holds no punches when it comes to her future aspirations. This cheerful teen can light up a room with her smile in one moment, and then have you thinking about the hard topics that are plaguing our country in the next. A graduate of Holy Name Convent, Port of Spain, Hailey has represented Trinidad and Tobago in Water Polo for a number of years. Her career in water polo was due mainly to the influence of her aunt and her school principal at Dunross Primary School. To hear her tell it, she was thrown into mini polo at Dunross because her cousins did it and both her aunt and the school principal thought it was a great idea. However, her natural talent soon shone through and it grew into a passion.
For four years she represented Dunross Primary School in mini polo, then she joined Marlin’s Polo club where she gained more structure.
At Holy Name Convent, at the age of 13, she joined the school’s club, where she once again connected with her cousins. Soon, she was encouraged to take her talents further. This time, her mother, Tessa-Anne, was the driving force behind Hailey trying her hand at the national team. Tessa-Anne continued to support her daughter after the first round of tryouts weren’t successful, but soon Hailey’s hard work paid off and she was in her first major national tournament.
She joined the national team in 2015 at the CCCAN (la Confederación Centroamericana y del Caribe de Natación)* in Puerto Rico where the Under 15 Team proved victorious. After this, her life became pretty gruelling, but she took it all in stride. For 6 hours a day for 6 weeks she trained with her team and soon she again represented Trinidad and Tobago (Under 17 team) at the Pan Am Junior games in Jamaica in August of that same year. In 2016, she took the team to the CCCAN games in Guatemala as Captain and gained 2nd place. In 2017, as Co-captain with Jaeda Attong-Julien for the games in the Bahamas, she took the team to 1st place.
While, at age 18, Hailey has currently ‘aged-out’ of the team and her water polo career has also been put on hold due to an injury, she has not lost her sense of duty to her country. She simply switched her focus to her CXC exams and has declared that she will be making a difference in years to come for her country as the Prime Minister. This determined young lady has everything it takes to make that a reality. Before that prime ministerial post, however, she hopes that she can join the ministry of sport to help fix some of the inconsistencies and improve the opportunities for athletes that she was made aware of during her career representing her country.
For Hailey, even though she was pushed into the sport, she does not regret a minute of it as she has seen the many benefits of being involved in sports and a part of a team. The camaraderie, the discipline and the ability to form meaningful bonds that continue even after the games have ended have all made a huge impact on Hailey in her life. She encourages young people to pick up a sport as the benefits and gains are enormous and continue to influence your life in positive ways.
*Central American and Caribbean Swimming Federation
Omega is a freelance copy-editor and writer, who also finds time to blog about mom-life and writer-life on her blog: www.omegafrancis.com.