January 26, 2018 - 9:30am
Mariners student-athlete recognized for her skill, dedication and commitment to basketball and community contributions
Kaitlyn Lafontaine is a dedicated athlete, a mentor and a Vancouver Island University (VIU) student who dreams of using her education to make a positive impact on Indigenous people in Canada.
Lafontaine, a member of the Métis Nation, recently received the 2017 Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport – Interior Region. The recipients must not only be exceptional athletes but also demonstrate a commitment to pursing higher education, leadership qualities, volunteerism and a connection to their culture.
“Kaitlyn is an example of our dedicated Mariners student-athletes who are committed to success not just on the court, or the classroom, but also in the community,” said Stephanie White, VIU’s Director of High Performance Sport, Recreation and Physical Literacy.
Lafontaine, a guard for the VIU Mariners women’s basketball team, said she was proud to win the Interior region award because even though she has played basketball on Vancouver Island for the past four years it was great to represent her hometown, Kelowna.
“It was a proud moment to represent where I am from and my family name,” she said.
Winning the regional award automatically serves as a nomination for the Provincial Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport Award. The winners will be announced during the Indigenous Youth Sport Leadership Forum held at the Gathering our Voices Youth Conference in Richmond, March 20-23.
Lafontaine said attending VIU allows her to balance pursing higher education and play basketball.
“She is a veteran on our team and one the younger players look up to for guidance both on and off the court,” said Tony Bryce, Head Mariners Women’s Basketball Coach. “We are going to miss her leadership and toughness next year.”
“Education is a huge tool for change. I really want to use my education to give back to my community and make a difference,” said Lafontaine. “School has taught me I am someone who can make those changes.”
On the basketball court Lafontaine balances a combination of adrenaline and calmness. Her awareness is heightened. At any moment she could be in the middle of a play and her reaction needs to be quick, calculated and precise.
“There are a hundred things that go through my head every single play,” she said.
Playing basketball has been a family affair since she was a child. Her grandparents, parents and siblings all play the game.
“There is literally a baby photo of me holding a basketball when I was two years old, so to say I was born into it isn’t an understatement,” said Lafontaine.
One of the highlights of her basketball career is participating in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in 2014.
“For me it was a huge experience because in that moment my culture overlapped with basketball,” she said, adding the experience motivated her to get her Level 1 and Aboriginal Coaching Certifications. In 2017 she was the assistant coach of the U16 girls team at NAIG in Toronto and currently coaches at École Pauline Haarer Elementary School in Nanaimo.
Lafontaine said she’s excited that the VIU Mariners are hosting the 2018 PACWEST Basketball Championships March 1-3, where the top women’s and men’s basketball teams will compete for the title and a ticket to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) National Championships.
Rachel Stern, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University