One of the state’s emerging hockey talents, 20 year old Kendelle Tait, has credited her New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship for helping to shape her career away from the pitch.

Tait, who is preparing for her second season with the NSW Pride team that opens its defence of the Hockey One League Championship title against Brisbane Blaze in Queensland on Saturday, is studying Exercise and Sports Science at Sydney University. And she revealed watching the NSWIS Sports Scientists, Physiologists, and other support staff in action helped her decide to pursue that path.

“I’m into my second year of [studying] Exercise and Sports Science at university, it’s a three year degree,” said Tait. “I’m doing it part time and am really enjoying it. Once I finish, I’m looking to do further study in allied health, although I’m not exactly sure what that will be.

“I’ve had a strong interest in sport and high performance for quite a while. I received my NSWIS scholarship when I was 17, and I think that helped to grow my interest in that area. I really want to make a difference when I graduate by going into the Allied Health sector or High Performance.

“NSWIS has played such an important part in my development. The support it has given me; the services – physiotherapy, strength and conditioning – means I’m on top of my game all the time. That support has been so beneficial because it has allowed me to see improvement and understand why we do what we do.”

Tait’s academic prowess appears to be just as promising as it is in hockey – she has represented Australia’s Under 21 national team – as she was awarded a Mollie Dive scholarship by the Sydney University Sport and Fitness Association.

Besides having a grandstand at North Sydney Oval named in her honour, Professor Mary ‘Mollie’ Dive, represented Australia in seven women’s cricket Tests between 1948-51, she graduated from Sydney University with a science degree and was employed by the CSIRO for most of her working life. She was also a distinguished athlete at Sydney University, representing the institute in cricket, hockey, tennis, and netball.

“Some lucky students – if they’ve done well that year and enjoyed achievements – receive ‘name’ scholarships,” said Tait. “Mine was the Mollie Dive scholarship, and the scholarships for hockey and cricket are named in honour of her to recognise the contributions she made to the uni.

“It was a special honour for me to get that place. I also think its very special that through receiving it I have an attachment of sorts to a sporting legend such as Mollie, who holds a special place in the uni.”

When asked how she was enjoying her time with the NSW Pride, Tait immediately answered she’s ‘living the dream’ and is forever grateful her father, Peter, convinced her to switch from netball to hockey when she was aged five because, as a keen player, he could help teach her the sport’s fundamentals.

“My parents and I have sacrificed so much to get here, but I’m doing what I love,” said Tait.

“I’m enjoying pushing myself to the limit. It’s a really good opportunity to be able to do this, and I’m fortunate to have friends and family who are so supportive and allow me to do this.

“My parents and I have sacrificed so much to get here . . . so much juggling. People will tell you hockey is a demanding sport on the body – and while it is, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Tait nominates her being recruited to play for the NSW Pride last year as a teenager as – so far – her proudest achievement in hockey.

“And to take out the Hockey One title was a massive performance; so special,” she said. I was only 19, one of three of the youngest in the squad, and it was so special to do that.

“When I was selected for my first game, I was so nervous but so excited. I wanted to take the opportunity and make the most of it.

“There was a lot of learnings, but having such a good team culture at NSW Pride was good for me. I felt supported by the older girls and that was important.”

When NSWIS Women’s Hockey head coach, and assistant coach of the NSW Pride, Ben Senior, spoke of Tait he described a player blessed with an array of exciting skills.

“She has good, clean skill execution and she is quick,” said Senior. “An asset is her acceleration, her five to 10 metre acceleration, so she has that ability to get ahead [of the opposition].

“‘Kenny’ also delivers passes with pace, and, on the physical side, she has the ability to run in both directions offensively and defensively. Added to all of that is she has also developed a goal scoring eye.”

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

Photograph: Mitchell Soames

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