For the last couple of years, Paige Tawaf has tried to find the balance between being a nurse and following her passion for basketball.
A fierce competitor for Broadmeadows Championship Women Big V team, she’s used to hard-fought battles against her opposition.
What she could never imagine was that her toughest opponent yet wouldn’t be on the court at all… but at work.
A love of basketball isn’t something that just fades over time; the first moment you’re introduced to the game has a way of staying with you.
Tawaf’s first memories are shared with her big brother as she, like many younger siblings, looked up to him and tried to do everything he could.
“My introduction to basketball began when I tagged along to my brother’s basketball training sessions,” Tawaf said. “One day I decided I wanted to give basketball a go. I started playing when I was 10 years old at my local domestic club (Roxburgh Park Magpies Basketball Club).
“I was then asked to join the Friday night representative team at the Broadmeadows Broncos – I began playing representative basketball as an Under 12 top age and was still very fresh to the game. I thoroughly enjoyed the sport and continued to play both domestic and representative basketball until I was 18.
“At the age of 15 I tried out for the senior women’s program. I played youth league as a development player until I earned my spot on the team. At Broadmeadows the Senior Youth and Women’s teams are closely associated, and I was often given the opportunity to play in the senior women’s program when required.
“I’ve now been with the Senior Women’s team for the past two years and look forward to playing for many more years to come.”
During her time playing at the Broncos, Tawaf became part of the junior program coaching staff and has coached her own team for the past five years.
According to Tawaf, she feels the club has shaped her to become the person she is today.
“I have been at Broadmeadows throughout my whole basketball journey and the club has supported me to grow and gain confidence as a person and athlete,” Tawaf said. “I now continue to use these skills as a player and coach. Broadmeadows is a very loyal club and I am honored to be part of it.”
After graduation from school, Tawaf went on to study nursing at Victoria University and has been working as a registered nurse for over three years now.
As many athletes in senior Big V programs experience, there comes a time when career and lifestyle pursuits begin to clash with basketball. Tawaf remains addiment there’s no reason the two can’t be balanced.
“I juggle my basketball training and coaching sessions in between my nursing shifts which can be challenging at times but would not have it any other way,” Tawaf said.
However, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world in the early 2020, our essential health care workers were tasked with tackling a virus that had more lingering questions than definitive answers.
For some it seemed impossible, but for Tawaf, this responsibility epitomised her passion for nursing.
“I became a nurse because as I have always loved helping people,” Tawaf said. “I believe nursing offers unique opportunities to achieve this. Although it can be a challenging job, it’s also very rewarding seeing the differences made in people’s lives.”
Paige was working as a Registered Nurse at Northern Health in Epping on a Colorectal/Urology Ward and Oncology/Haematology Ward.
An already taxing role in the hospital, the situation at hand escalated quicker than Tawaf anticipated.
“The unknown of what you had to face on every shift was the most difficult,” Tawaf said. “As an essential worker it was a very frightening situation not knowing what was going to happen. My ward was transferred into the COVID-19 ward. We were prepared and planned for the worst in the hospital.
“There was lots of anxiety going to work regarding being on the frontline and exposing myself to people with Covid-19 which can then affect my family. It was physically draining.”
As well as the direct toll COVID-19 was having on Tawaf’s job, day–in and day–out, she also had to consider how it would influence her life outside of nursing.
She was torn between seeing the pandemic as an athlete or in her professional as an essential worker.
“As an essential worker I questioned whether I should continue playing basketball as I would be working longer hours due to the increased demand,” Tawaf said. “I was also afraid to be around others during this time just in case of exposure.
“However, as an athlete I thought that all my hard work I had put in was going down the drain and that my skills and fitness would decline.”
For any athlete, the idea of pressing pause on your sport before it even begins is like getting to the chorus of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ at karaoke, only for the power to go out.
But in any case, much like the song in the analogy above, Tawaf had to hold on to the feeling and not stop believing.
“To my surprise the postponement of basketball turned in to more of a positive than I’d imagined,” she said. “My fitness improved during isolation because there was nothing else to do when I got home from work.
“I have been keeping up with my gym classes 5-6 times a week either before or after work, shooting on outside community courts when allowed and using at home basketball apps for skills.”
Tawaf admits she’s had some help along the way to not become complacent while on a match play break.
“Having my junior team helped keep me on top of things too, writing programs for them at to use while at home to keep up their skills too,” she said.
While there are still many unknowns about the virus throughout Victoria and across the world, if someone like Tawaf, who is on the frontline of this pandemic, can remain hopeful about the safety of our state and our game, why can’t we all?
“My advice is stay please home and do the right thing,” Tawaf said.
“Follow the guidelines, they’re there for a reason. Most of all keep active, eat healthy and enjoy the time off without basketball and find new hobbies to do.
“Keep your mind and body active because if we all work together and do the right thing now; we can go back to basketball soon.”