Wall of Fame—Elise Horton

Q & A with Coquitlam Sports Wall of Fame's Female High School Athlete of 2009 Elise Horton:

Question: Looking back at 2009—beginning with helping Centennial get back to the BCs in basketball in the winter (and an Honourable Mention all-star award), followed by getting to the soccer provincals with Centennial—did all those accomplishments surprise you, or did you have a feeling that everything was going to come together?

HORTON: In regard to making the provincials with the soccer team in 2009, I wasn't surprised that we made the provincials because we had a very good team and a lot of the girls on the team had played with each other for the whole four years, so there was a lot of team chemistry. When it came to getting into the BCs with our basketball team, I have to say I was surprised. We had a great team, but the team was individually talented, we weren't quite together as a whole yet; the team ranged from 14 year olds to 17 year olds, and it was hard to find a common ground because the maturity level was obviously different and a lot of us had not played on the same team before.

Saying that, in the last couple of games we came together, put our differences aside and won some very important games. I remember we played against Gleneagle (the game that decided which team played Nanaimo to get into the provincials), who was our biggest rival and every year we had played them, we had never won in the last minute of the game you could just feel the momentum shift and we won by a couple of points. I'll never forget when I walked over to the bench, our assistant coach Frank (who had helped me greatly through the season) said that he hadn't been this happy since his kids were born. It was just one of those moments when you feel so proud to be part of a team and realize that all that hard work you put in was actually put towards something. It was a very happy and positive atmosphere.

Centennial women's senior basketball hadn't made provincials in about 16 years—so it was an honour to make provincials and better yet to get 6th place. Even though 6th place isn't anything too spectacular, it meant a lot to all of us and it was a great way to leave my basketball career at Centennial.

Question: What did it mean to you to be named Centennial's High School Female Athlete of 2009—what was your first impression upon hearing it?

HORTON: When Mr. McCutcheon (our vice principal) announced that I was athlete of the year in front of about a thousand people at the commencement ceremony, it was one of the greatest moments in my life. I actually remember when I went to my brother's commencement ceremony when I was in Grade 8 and about to go to Centennial, the athlete of the year awards were announced and my mom whispered 'You could be up there in four years!" I could never see it happening as I had never gotten the best grades and girls who played two sports would have a better chance of getting it.

I only played soccer at the time, so I didn't really think anything about it. During my first year at Centennial one of my gym teachers saw me shooting balls from centre court and told me I should play for the basketball team. I tried out and absolutely loved it, so basketball and soccer basically became my life for the next four years.

It was just such an amazing and overwhelming feeling, standing in front of so many people and receiving the award. It was definitely the longest two minutes of my life—in a good way. I can't take all the credit for this as I had two of the best coaches anyone could ask for and my best friend Kristen (Santema), who would never let me give up. She was close to winning (the award) too and it really could have gone either way. Not only is she one outstanding athlete, but she is a great leader. Even though she didn't get much playing time on our basketball team in Grade 12 (which she was used to getting), she put everyone else first and was admirably supportive during the season.

She was just as much of a contributor off the floor as I was on the floor. All it takes to get you from good to great in sports is to have someone who is always there to give you that extra push when you need it and talk some sense back into you when you fall in the attitude of 'I can't do it.' I am proud of the day I won athlete of the year, but more importantly, I am proud of my friends and coaches who helped me along the way. The lessons they taught me will never be forgotten.

Question: What was the main reason behind you and your teams' successes at Centennial? Of all the accomplishments that year, what stands out the most for you?

HORTON: A big reason why my team and I were so successful was because of the coaches. It's that simple. During my Gr. 9 and 10 years our basketball coach was just phenomenal. He understood the game, knew how to coach it so we would understand, and is one of those people who just makes you want to come to practice.

With every team I have been on there has been at least a coupole times where I haven't wanted to go to practice, but I would be eager to go to his practices—it was almost like a stress reliever because it was so fun. When a coach cares so much about what he is doing, it is infectious and the players will feed off of that energy.

If a coach earns the respect of a team, things will all fall into place. It makes a big difference to a player when they want to work for their coach and they appreciate him. He was very focused and sometimes tough on you, but the always made practices and games enjoyable.

Personally, I play the best when there isn't too much pressure and the game is actually fun—and that's what he was all about. Having the whole team on the same page is also the key to success. Unless you are willing to fight for your teammate and help her up when she falls, the team won't go very far. You can't win very many games if you don't care about the people on your team.

It was the same deal with my soccer. For the four years I was on the team, the coach made it both a competitive and fun environment to be in. A happy team will be a winning team.

You also just have to be willing to work hard and not succumb to every little temptation around you. Be a contributor and not a contaminator. I was fortunate enough to be on teams that all got along and looked up to the coach, which is what led to constructive practices and successful games.

Out of all of the accomplishments my teams and I received, I would have to say coming 4th in Grade 9 basketball provincials (in 2006) stands out the most. Along with a lot of other girls on the team, it was my first year ever playing basketball and a group of 14 year olds who only knew each other for a couple of months came 4th in the province!

This was the first time when I realized how great the game of basketball was. I was so young and played with my hair down. Now I knew that if I really wanted to, I would be able to compete at a high level. It was such an exciting day and I remember feeling so lucky to be playing with a group of great girls and a coach who couldn't stop smiling. My years at Centennial were wonderful and my involvement with sports has helped me in all areas of life.

Question: Tell me what are you doing right now, and how was your first year in university?

HORTON: Currently, I am in my second year of university. Last year I went to the University of Calgary to play basketball and it was completely different from high school. My days of getting patted on the back for finishing a simple layup were over.

Right when my coach said "You're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy," I knew it was going to be one interesting year.

I don't regret my time there for one minute as I learned several things about both myself and sport. However, I also believe that being happy is important and by the end of my year there I realized that it just wasn't a fit for me.

I now play soccer for Capilano University, which is on the opposite side of the spectrum from Calgary. It went okay this year, but our team is not nearaly ready to compete for a championship. One thing that stuck with me going to Calgary is that if you want to be successful, you have to go above and beyond what is required and when the game or soccer starts, put everything else aside.

People would show up late, text while the coach was talking in the change room, and overall, the team just wasn't dedicated. If you don't care about what result we get, it is likely that we won't get a very good one.

Our talent isn't lacking, but our maturity and attitude towards the game is. I think not making it to provincials taught us a lesson and hopefully next year we will come in with a more serious attitude. Though we didn't get very far, it was a fun year and it is nice to be back on the soccer field again!
Elise Horton
Elise Horton

2009 Interviews:

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