Navajo Prep basketball star Laila Charley receives 2021 Spirit of Sport Award from NMAA

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Senior Laila Charley of Navajo Preparatory School, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 New Mexico Activity Association's Spirit of Sport Award. 

The annual award, according to a statement from the NMAA, recognizes individuals who exemplify the ideals of the spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.

Charley, a starter on the Navajo Prep girls basketball team since her arrival at the school, was involved in a near-fatal accident on July 15, 2020 which left her with fractured bones in her head and suffering from a traumatic brain injury.

Previously:Laila Charley gets OK to play basketball this winter, is determined to make an impact

Laila Charley of Navajo Preparatory School receives 2021's Spirit of Sport Award from New Mexico Activities Association.

Charley spent nearly three months at UNM hospital recovering from injuries sustained in that accident and it was believed she'd never walk again, much less play sports.

Shortly after returning home, Charley had to work to learn to walk and talk again. Surviving the accident wasn't enough. She was determined to play sports again.

"Doctors didn't think she'd make it," her father Michael Charley said. "We just kept praying and hoping for a miracle."

More:Navajo Prep's Laila Charley making fast recovery after ATV accident

Laila was recently cleared to participate in sports by her doctors and currently is a member of the school's cross-country team and plans to be back on the basketball court when the season begins later this year. 

Navajo Prep guard Laila Charley works on penetrating toward the basket using a basketball hoops outside her home on Saturday, June 12, 2021 in Farmington.

"Her father would wrap a towel around her waist to hold her up," Navajo Prep girls basketball coach Rainy Crisp said. "She would stand close to the basket and begin shooting. At that time, you knew she was going to do what she could to play again."       

The ability to overcome her injuries and to get back to school, as well as participate in sports this season has been an inspiration to her teachers and coaches.

More:Laila Charley making tremendous strides rehabbing after suffering brain injury last summer

"She has definitely come such a long way in such a short amount of time," Crisp said. "For so many of us here on campus, and even those who didn't know her, seeing her determination made a lot of us look back and realize how many things we take for granted every day. Her presence alone is a huge impact for her classmates and teammates."

The award was presented to Charley and her family on Monday during the Fall Leadership Conference Lunch Banquet hosted by both the NMAA and New Mexico Athletic Directors Association in Albuquerque. Charley is nominated for the National Spirit of Sport Award which is given out by the National Federation of State High School Associations each year.

More information about Charley and the award can be found online by visiting the NMAA's YouTube channel. 

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680