Normally, it’s an uphill struggle for NWT soccer players. The facilities are better down south, the teams are better, and the outdoor season lasts longer. The odds are stacked against the North.
Destiny Hobbs-Stewart has experienced that many times. Playing for the Northwest Territories at the Canada Summer Games or representing Yellowknife in the sport’s national championship, she has faced some of the country’s best young players – and those games have been tough.
Now, the tables have turned.
Hobbs-Stewart is in her first year studying kinesiology at the University of Alberta Augustana campus, the start of what she hopes will be the road to medical school and a career as a doctor.
But Covid-19 means she is completing the entire year online from her home in Yellowknife.
The 18-year-old – she turns 19 on Thursday – is free to train and play soccer in the NWT, where the pandemic’s impact has been mild.
In Alberta and elsewhere, the rest of her team-mates are essentially locked down.
This past weekend, Hobbs-Stewart found out she had made the Augustana Vikings roster without so much as kicking a ball in Alberta. Instead, she has been sending in video of her performances and details of her workouts.
“It’s just a different feeling,” she told Cabin Radio on Sunday after making the team. Hay River’s Riella Bordey also made the list.
“Right now, the girls down there on the team aren’t playing,” said Hobbs-Stewart.
“I have the advantage of living here and I get to play. That’s helping me out, being here.
“They were working out and then they had to stop because of Covid. I’m the one consistently playing and being able to work out.”
Asked if she had ever felt like she had the advantage before, coming from the NWT, Hobbs-Stewart replied: “No. Never. It’s awesome, and it feels like I get a chance to show my full potential.”
Hundreds of kilometres from her new home field, her 15 years of soccer experience and her parents’ dedication to helping her play are paying off.
Hobbs-Stewart is playing three times a week as part of Yellowknife’s Sundogs club, gaining experience in the adult indoor winter league, and working out daily.
Even though she may never play for the Vikings this season, she says seeing her name on the roster gave her something to work toward: keeping her place for next year.
“It meant a lot because I know I’ve put in a lot of work. It still meant just as much as it would if I was down there,” she said.
“I’m excited to be able to take the next step and move to a higher level of soccer.”