KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss -- A senior airman assigned to the 81st Medical Support Squadron logistics flight here recently returned from an international netball tournament in Singapore.
Alisi Taka, a medical material technician, is a member of the U.S. National Netball Team. Taka joined seven other women in the six-country competition held Dec. 1-7, 2013. The U.S. team played squads from Ireland, Singapore, Uganda, Papua-New Guinea and Sri Lanka, with the U.S placing sixth overall. The U.S. team named Taka their most valuable player.
"This was the first time the U.S. team had played in this event and I'm looking forward to more U.S. participation in future international tourneys," Taka said.
According to Taka, netball is a fast-paced games, similar to basketball only without dribbling and no backboards.
"Teams normally consist of 12 players, with seven on the court and five reserves," Taka said. "Due to financial constraints, our team went there with eight girls."
Taka was first introduced to the game in her native country of Fiji. Growing up, she earned several awards and accolades playing the sport, and has even been recruited to play for numerous teams.
“I represented my high school for the under 15, 17 and 19 age groups,” she said. “I was nominated as the team captain for the under 15 and under 17 age groups. When I was 15, I was invited to join the Tailevu Netball Club, similar to a league, which is played for eight months. At this level, I played netball with experienced players, which was tough at times. Being the youngest player on the team, playing against national reps and experienced players was one of the challenges I had to face. I’ve learned that if you want to be the best in what you do, you have to play against the best, and learning from your mistakes is a basic element.”
In 2010, Taka said she was selected for the U.S. National Netball Team -- an opportunity she had to turn down because she was pregnant with her daughter. Two years later, she got a second chance.
"I rejoined the team a few months after having my son in September 2012,” Taka said. “I trained with the team for a year and learned I had been selected to participate in the tournament in November. It was a long time coming and it was personal achievement that I've always dreamt about. This was a great experience. As an Air Force member, I serve our country and I was proud to represent the U.S. in the tournament."
Most of her teammates are from Florida, with some from New York and the rest from Missouri, Taka said. At 24 years old, Taka is the youngest member of the team; the oldest is 48.
"Most of the time I work out on my own and then we have scheduled training as a team based on a schedule sent out by the netball association manager,” Taka said. “Training is held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Brooklyn, N.Y. and Atlanta, Ga. I usually drive to the closer locations for training."
The young athlete said she pays out of pocket for her travel, receiving occasional assistance from her family.
"I didn't get where I am today by myself,” Taka said. “I have a lot of people: family, friends, and my flight and squadron leadership to thank."