Some parents have trouble finding at least one activity in which their child may be interested. But between hula hoop performances, gymnastics, swimming, tennis, hiking and Scrabble, eight year-old Hailey Ali never stops going.
“I can’t really sit still too long,” she told Newsday Kids during a visit to her St Joseph home.
The well-spoken Hailey recalled how she first picked up the hula hoop. When she was six she saw a video of a girl doing the hula hoop and was inspired to do it. She told her parents she wanted to learn, and trained herself by watching YouTube videos and learning different tricks.
“It is really fun.”
Hailey can do about eight hula tricks. Her favourites are keeping the hoop around her waist while putting her arm in and out, and doing the same motion while kneeling. A Standard Two student of Maria Regina Grade School, Hailey recalled she was at school playing with her hula hoop when a teacher saw her and asked her if she could teach the older children at the school, which she was happy to do.
When she was in first year she entered a school talent show and won first place with a hula hoop routine to the song Cha-Cha Slide. Her prize was a princess Barbie doll. She also showed off her skills at a school sports competition by keeping the hoop up the longest. It all came down to her and another student, but they were holding it up for so long the teachers added the additional challenge of having them run with the hula hoop. Hailey’s mother, Leah-Marie Ali, said this was “suckeye” for her and Hailey emerged the winner.
Hailey’s also has requests to entertain at parties. She hopes to find a hula hoop teacher to learn more tricks but she only views it as a hobby.
Her bigger passion is gymnastics and she wants to take it all the way to Olympic level. She was inspired to start after she saw the documentary, The Gabby Douglas Story about the titular athlete who became first black gymnast to win the Individual All-Around Championship at the Olympics.
Hailey has been learning gymnastics for just under a year and trains with Tots & Tumblers Gymnastic Club. She has advanced from the recreational level to pre-competitive and her first competition is scheduled for March, also the month she turns nine. She likes the bars most of all; she has a small one set up in her home along with a pommel horse.
Hailey has also been swimming for four years and trains privately with local Olympic swimmer Shantelle McLean and the club Torpedoes. Her mother said she has the skills to go into competition but Hailey just wants to do it for fun; her brother Alex is a national swimmer.
Her other activities include Scrabble competitions at school, lawn tennis and hiking with her family.
“(Hiking) is one of my favourite things to do. At the end of the hike you see something really beautiful like a waterfall, the ocean or a spring.”
She said her parents and brother support her a lot in all the things she does.
“They said we can do this as long as we try.”
Hailey, an “A” student at her school, wants to be an engineer and make buildings when she grows up; her grandfather was a civil engineer and the family has a construction company. Her advice to children is to follow their dreams and to keep working at it.