EX-BASKETBALL star turns to footy.

Imagine balancing footy, studying, and your own business. Layla Prince does it all.

The Founder of Empower Hoops goes to basketball organisations and schools to work with a group of girls in workshops with the aim of having everyone walk out feeling more confident than when they walked in.

Currently studying a double degree in psychology and neuroscience at the University of Melbourne, Prince is finding a place to interpret her studies into real life through her day-to-day practices with Empower Hoops.

“We go through activities together and we talk about ways that we can build confidence, resilience, leadership skills, and how that helps you break barriers that you sometimes face as female athletes,” Prince said.

“I've written one workshop at the moment and I’m in the middle of writing a second and third one as well.”

Prince has plenty of basketball experience with it taking up most of her life. She kicked off her career with the Warrandyte Venom and was quickly selected in Victorian training programs in the under 16’s age bracket.

Her parents decided to move to Queensland at the start of 2019 and that meant that Prince was moving up North as well.

She was very serious about her basketball and decided to aim high. It worked and Prince landed herself a spot on the roster at the Sunshine Coast Phoenix in the NBL1 at 16-years-old.

Now in the groove in a new life in Queensland, Prince trialled for the under 18s state team and made it as a bottom age athlete. The following year she trialled again but now as a top age athlete.

Prince was in the car with the coach being told she would be one of the leaders that year and it all sounded positive for Prince, who had one of the best trials she’d ever been in.

“I didn't get anything for a week, so I messaged the coach ‘hey I'm just wondering what the goal is, I haven't got an email, and she said, ‘sorry, not this year kiddo’,” she admitted.

“I was really embarrassed, felt quite humiliated and then after that, I lost my love for it a bit which is a bit disappointing.”

She went on to keep playing for the Phoenix during her time in Queensland but then moved back to Melbourne and began her time with the Melbourne Tigers.

“That season was when all that talk about footy happened,” she said.

“I've given [basketball] my best shot, I love it but I'm going to see where footy can go.”

She took to LinkedIn and found the coaches of multiple AFLW clubs and reached out letting them know of her interest in playing footy.


Clubs that got in touch were St Kilda, North Melbourne, and Carlton and Prince quickly found the home of the Blues as the place to be.

“I met Ash [Naulty] and ‘Bucky’, and they sat me down, we got coffee and had a session, and it was super professional,” she said.

“They then offered me to train on with the AFLW group last season and then they offered me a place in VFLW.”

Prince wasn’t a stranger to footy as she first picked up the oval shaped ball at 14-years-old with her local club Park Orchards. That’s a lot of experience lost compared to others who have been surrounded by the sport while they were in primary school.

The new recruit decided to give footy a go and make the use of the opportunity presented to her.

“Because I didn’t have much footy experience, to come in with the expectation to train at a high standard off the bat was really good,” she said.

“I was just soaking everything up and to do that at the highest level from the start was what set me up well. It made me feel prepared for VFLW.”

Unbeknown to Prince, she would be thrown into the back line by Head Coach Glenn Strachan.

As someone who hasn’t played much footy, Prince has had many learning experiences in the full-back position. She gets to watch the game from a different perspective and take on more tagging roles.

Prince aspires to make another step up from VFLW into the AFLW league and would like to remain at IKON Park for the rest of her footy career.

That work ethic comes from Prince’s mum who always pushes the 21-year-old to train, study, and work at full throttle. The tough love is worthwhile, being able to aim for greatness, but none of it would happen without the help of her dad.

“[Dad] always reminds me just never to forget that I love the game no matter what game I'm playing,” she said. 

“He always says to remember the memories you make, the friendships you make and that you love it and like every time you hit the grass.”

The 21-year-old acknowledged her rapid development is largely due to Strachan not being afraid of giving a stern front. 

His toughness was applauded as Prince appreciates a coach who holds her accountable, and tells her when she messes up but also when she does something well.

Defensive coach Christina ‘Polly’ Polatajko has been the biggest hype woman for all her defenders. Even the little things she notices throughout the game she tells them afterwards.

Prince is grateful for every piece of honest feedback but feels those butterflies when told ‘great job, super proud of you’.

“That’s always nice to hear from a coach and as an athlete hearing that is the best thing,” she said.

“It’s just knowing you made your coach proud.”