In this three-part series, we have a chat with some rising stars at Whittlesea City Basketball Association. This month, we met Millie Waara to talk basketball, education and the intersection between the two.
Hi! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 20 years old and a duty manager for Redrock Airport services, which operates out of Melbourne airport. I’m responsible for overseeing staff in all venues and the day-to-day operations of multiple venues, which include cafes and bars.
I’ve completed my NCEA (national certificate of excellence and achievement) in New Zealand, which is equivalent to Year 12 in Australia.
How long have you been playing basketball, and how long have you been with Whittlesea Pacers?
I’ve been playing basketball since I was 10 and have been with Whittlesea pacers since I was 14.
I left for the seasons 2016–2017 and spent two years in New Zealand for schooling and basketball. I attended New Plymouth Girls High School as a boarder the first year in the dorms, then my final year we lived in a house on campus with other athletes.
Tell us a bit about your team!
Our team is unique and diverse. Currently there are nine of us and we are awaiting two imports. We are in Championship Women’s division, which is the level below NBL/1. We are only in our pre-season but are working hard so that we’re prepared physically and mentally for the real season.
My favourite thing about playing for Pacers is that it’s not just a team or a club, it’s a family community. Everyone supports everyone and we all strive to get better and achieve goals together.
What does your team do when you have a big win?
Last season when we had a big win we would celebrate graciously, then reflect on what we did well and what we need to improve on. We looked at the way we implemented our plays or defence and how the morale lifted. We always looked at how we can be better still.
What have you learnt in school that helped you become the player you are today?
In school, I learnt to be an elite student athlete what it requires physically mentally and emotionally the hard work needed every single day. Although I love basketball, my grades and education always came first — without basketball, I would have no education or qualifications to further any career.
Did you find your school was supportive of students interested in sport?
My school was very supportive with students who were interested in sport. The best thing a school can do to support kids who love basketball is by helping them achieve their goals, both inside and outside the classroom. Be their mentor, take time out to help them when they need it.
How has playing for the Pacers made you a better student or worker?
Playing for Pacers has made me a better player and worker because it’s shown me diversity and what it’s like to be supported, and how to support everyone and anyone.
It’s shown me how to help others better themselves and how to better myself as a person.
Are there any significant challenges you’ve had to overcome in your sporting life?
I had to work for everything. To get to where I am now, I trained six days a week in high school mornings and nights.
I also have changed my playing position, all throughout high school I was considered ‘big’ because of my height, but now I’m playing women’s I’m a guard, so I’ve had to adapt my skillset for that position. I’ve had to become quicker, fitter and tidier with my handles.
Biggest basketball highlight?
In 2014 and 2015 travelling to Las Vegas with the New Zealand Basketball Academy alongside Steven Adams.
Who’s your sporting hero and why?
My sporting hero is myself. I say this because I like to think of myself as my biggest competitor, but also, I like to consider myself a role model. Someone I’d like to look up to if I was younger and someone who influences the youth to be better.
What are your hopes for the Pacers in 2020?
My hope is that we have a strong dynamic team that works well together and can achieve any goal. I hope that we’re able to finish better off than last season and hopefully make the playoffs. We have the potential to do great things this season.
Any advice for someone wanting to get involved with the Pacers or who wants to start basketball?
The best advice I could give someone wanting to join any club or start playing basketball is give it all you got. Don’t let anything anyone says affect you. Work hard always and stay focused, you will achieve your goals. Believe in yourself!