Siren Emerging Sports Writer Seraphina Newton got to know basketballer Taylah Giliam, and her perspective on taking advantage of every possible opportunity when they present.
Carpe Diem; seize the day. It’s becoming an ever-more popular mindset that people are choosing to adopt. It’s something that Taylah Giliam, however, learnt very early in life and in her case, it’s paid off.
After winning a WNBL (Women’s National Basketball League) Championship with The Southside Flyers earlier this year, Taylah is currently—pending COVID—playing in the NBL1 for the Frankston Blues as a starting guard. This is something that Taylah, like most young athletes, had dreamt about growing up, but she wasn’t sure if it would ever come true.
“I always had aspirations, but with how things turned out in my juniors I did think, oh my god am I ever going to make it.”
Taylah didn’t progress through the same pathway as most of her fellow WNBL development players. Without consistent features in the Australian Junior Classic, World Cup teams or through a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport, she had to really fight for an opportunity in the league.
Based in Warragul, Taylah made the choice to play in the Victorian Junior Basketball league (VJBL) to get better exposure in a more competitive environment. It wasn’t until bottom age U16s that she made the move from the Country Basketball system into the VJBL. This meant a three hour round trip from her Warragul home to Nunawading, three times a week, to play and train for the Nunawading Spectres.
Taylah credits her parents’ support during this time too, being the willing chauffeurs multiple times a week so she could work toward her dream.
“Thanks to Mum and Dad for that,” she adds.
Navigating her way through the VJBL, she spent time at the Spectres, the Southern Peninsula Sharks and then the Dandenong Rangers. This last move ended up being the best for her career, as she starred in the program and rapidly progressed through the club’s pathway. Starting in the Victorian Youth Championship Women’s team, then the South East Australian Basketball League (then named the SEABL, now NBL1 South), and finally the WNBL, Australia’s elite women’s basketball competition.
This was also where she met three of the most influential coaches of her career: Larissa Anderson, Cheryl Chambers and Belinda Snell. All are ex-WNBL players and Belinda—or “Snelly” as she’s referred to by Taylah—is also a former Opal.
“The biggest thing with Larissa was that she gave me an opportunity, which started everything, so obviously [I’m] so grateful to her for that. And then Chez (Cheryl) and Snelly have just continued to keep growing that opportunity.”
Taylah’s commitment and dedication is clear, but for her, the main point she continues to come back to is taking every chance when it comes knocking. This is her ethos.
“I definitely had to work my ass off to get there. I just got little opportunities. I was in Youth League and I got an opportunity to just train with SEABL and obviously I made the most of that and then I got asked to be in the team.
“And it was the same with WNBL. They were low on numbers one training and I was literally on my way to Uni, I got off at the train station, turned around, went to the training and since then [haven’t] looked back… and here I am now, it’s crazy.”
That day was a defining moment for Taylah. Her hard work was paying off and her devotion to her sport only grew from there, in part because she knew she couldn’t afford to take her foot off the gas.
“If I had said I had Uni that day, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” she admits.
But it wasn’t just the opportunity to play at these high levels that Taylah cherishes. It was also the chance to be coached by the likes of Larissa, Cheryl and Snelly.
“They’ve kind of been there, done that so you can relate to that.”
Having a point of common ground with her coaches has been important for Taylah. Knowing that they’ve had those experiences, and come out stronger on the other side means those women act as a beacon to her. This is what she can become.
“I suppose most athletes have had coaches where they haven’t been able to [relate to them] and it can kind of make and break careers. I think I’ve been really lucky. It’s also a bonus that they’re all female coaches. They have played WNBL, they know what it takes.”
Other than being relatable and being able to share their valuable experiences with Taylah, these three coaches all have one thing in common: they have repeatedly instilled confidence in Taylah and put their trust in her. This has helped her with overcoming the pressure and expectations of the elite basketball environment.
“Larissa was awesome for the beginning of my WNBL career, just giving me confidence and basically just giving me an opportunity to play WNBL… she just made sure I was supported and was confident and created conversation.”
On top of that, having a coach like Cheryl Chambers who is also on the coaching team for the Opals is a bonus.
“It’s just like being taught how to be a professional athlete and what it takes to be in the WNBL and to be a professional basketball player. I have a lot of respect for Chez and I think she’s a great coach, “ Taylah says of Cheryl.
“Just holding yourself accountable and playing for your team are the biggest things I find. She has a lot of trust in her players and I think that is really important to win championships.”
On a personal level, Taylah credits her Southside Flyers assistant coach, and her current Frankston Blues head coach Belinda Snell as having the biggest impact. It helps that they’re both shooting guards.
“She’s been awesome with just providing insight. We do a lot of individual training sessions, working on shooting, coming off screens and all that.
“She’s what? A three time Olympian? Which is pretty awesome when you think about it. We have to pinch ourselves to believe she’s our coach.”
“She’s put in a lot of time with me and training me,” Taylah says gratefully.
Throughout her journey, the same message has been reiterated time and time again.
“The biggest thing learning from them would be taking those opportunities when they’ve been given, because they’ve all rewarded me for it.”
Taylah approaches challenges head-on, whether it’s mixing it with the best at the Southside Flyers, opting to train with the Dandenong Rangers, or testing herself by playing under some of Australia’s most esteemed female coaches and former players. Each opportunity has its perks, and Taylah continues to seize each day as it comes.