Throughout time, there have been many legendary sporting heroes who have come out of the Six Nations community.
Residents have always felt the pride of following the careers of such distinguished hometown athletes as former Boston Bruins forward Stan Jonathan and current Buffalo Sabres defenceman Brandon Montour along with others such as NLL greats Cody Jamieson, Warren Hill, Johnny Powless and Brendan Bomberry to name just a few.
Other iconic athletes with Six Nations ties include long distance runner Tom Longboat, who won the 1907 Boston Marathon with a record time of 2:24:24 and Team Ontario 2008 NAIG girls softball gold medal winner Carey-Leigh Vyse.
“It was an incredible feeling to win the championship because as a team, we gave it everything we had and played as one, played for our home communities and we played for each other,” Vyse said.
“It was so nice to have a nice crowd from the other games being done because our games were so close and running longer. I will never forget my experience at the 2008 NAIG games as it was a beautiful trip (to B.C.), made lasting friendships and unforgettable memories with my sisters.”
Blessed with a strong work ethic and determination, Carey-Leigh Vyse would go on to carve out quite the impressive women’s softball career; which among her many achievements, included being enshrined into The Hall of Fame for Ontario PWSA (Provincial Women’s Softball Association) with the Brantford Bobcats squad she excelled on growing up.
“We were the first team to win both provincials and Canadian Championships in three different age categories in 2006, 2008 and 2011,” she said.
Reflecting on her career, Vyse represented the Six Nations community with tremendous pride and strong determination.
Showcasing her talents, this infielder in 2011, as a 17- year-old made the Junior Women’s National Team, which competed in South Africa and placed fifth at the World Championships.
A year later it was onto Whitehorse, Yukon, where as a rookie in the World Championships helped Canada to a fourth- place finish.
“I am very humbled and proud to have represented Six Nations all of those years I had played for the national team,” Vyse said. “When I was with the team I would always get, where is Six Nations? And I would probably answer any questions they had related to our community or culture. And it would be so cool to see Indigenous people come out to our games because after each of our games, we would have signings/ meet and greets and I would meet Indigenous people from all over who would said that they heard there was an Indigenous women on the team and wanted to come out and support.”
In total, Vyse has represented Canada in three world Championships, including one in Surrey British Columbia where she came away with a bronze.
Continuing to show that passion for women’s softball, Vyse, starting in 2012, would go on to play five years with the Senior Women’s National Team and one with the Junior National Team Canada. She would not however play in 2013, due to the birth of her daughter.
In making her mark at Syracuse University, Vyse played third base where as a rookie she turned heads by slamming 12 homeruns including one which put her in the history books as the only hitter to hit a round tripper in the Carrier Dome.
“Growing up playing, as youngsters, we were taught and given chances to play all of the positions,” Vyse said. “When I played for the Brantford Bobcats, I played short-stop the whole time. When I made the Jr. National Team, I played short-stop as well. So, when I played for the Sr. Women’s Team and at Syracuse University, they played me at 3rd base which was totally different for me but I took it as a challenge and worked really hard at learning a new position because I wanted to play and to prove myself to the coaches that I deserved to be there and belonged there.” Vyse also went on to add, “That’s why I tell young athletes that it is good thing to be versatile and to be able to play all positions so that it makes you more valuable to the team.”
In dissecting her game Vyse believes her strengths include, “Getting to the balls that are hit up the middle, turning double plays, quick feet on bunts, throwing on the run and fielding ball cleanly, communicate, give encouragement and always backing up my teammates.”
Another monumental achievement came in 2016 when Vyse received the Dreamcatcher Charitable Sports and Recreation Award at the Dreamcatcher Gala.
“I was also honored with the Recognition of Excellence by the Six Nations Council.”
A year later after Team Canada’s qualifiers in Puerto Rico, Vyse decided to call it a career.
“For our young and upcoming Indigenous female players who grow up wanting to play on the International women’s softball team, the advice I would give is to be proud of who you are and to show them how Indigenous women can play,” Vyse said. “Show them your perseverance and determination. Show them your grit and that fighter in you. It’s a constant battle to overcome all of the obstacles in making the team, as you are competing against the best of the best and for a spot on a 17 or 15 person roster.” She also went on to add, “Be that athlete who is always hustling on and off the field, to and from drills or even on water breaks. Be that athlete who helps clean up equipment and shag balls, be the athlete who does extra reps and doesn’t settle, be that athlete who puts in that extra work when the coaches aren’t watching and most importantly, be the athlete who is coachable and who approaches everything that they do with a good mind and an open mind so that you will grow, both as a person and as a softball player.”
Another thing to remember is when on the diamond, always remember to have fun.
Photo Cutline- Six Nations infielder Carey-Leigh Vyse celebrates after helping Team Ontario win girl’s softball gold at 2008 NAIG held in B.C.
Photo Credit- Photo submitted by Carey-Leigh Vyse.