Two Terrace Wolverine basketball teams are heading to the Junior All Native Basketball Tournament in Williams Lake next week, March 13-19.
With a mix of players ages 17 and under, including Nisga’a, Tahltan, Tsimshian and Metis, the team was formed from some of the regulars at the weekly drop-in basketball at the Clarence Michiel gym.
With girls playing Tuesday nights and boys on Wednesdays, the Wolverines’ basketball drop-in is open to all youths, not just First Nations, and is run by a group of parents who want to make activities available for their children.
At the drop-in, the youths do 20 minutes of fitness and jumping, then run drills and practise the fundamental skills, and finally they scrimmage.
The program started in 2012 when Suwilaawks principal Pamela Kawinsky and Fred Wilson opened the gym one evening for a random basketball night for youths. A lot of youths showed up that night so parents organized two teams, boys and girls, to travel and compete in the Junior All Native that year.
The next year, local parents stepped up to continue the drop-in, including Cecil Barton and Tiffany Moore who now run the boys’ drop-in and Daniel Henry who runs the girls’ program.
“I got involved because of my daughter. She was the reason I came here, she was the reason I stayed,” said Henry, adding that the other part is that he wants to provide a consistent program for youth.
“That’s one thing I would like to see here, is a steady youth drop-in basketball. That’s why I do this – I want to see the kids out playing… staying active,” he said.
Tiffany Moore agreed.
“I grew up playing basketball and wanted to support these guys and give them something to do… it provides a safe place… I’d rather them be here than out doing other things,” she said. “I do it to support my kids and help these other guys.”
The parents run a basketball drop-in during the school year and a drop-in soccer program during the summer as much as they can find gym time, which has been the biggest challenge.
A core group of over 12 parents meet regularly to plan and organize fundraising for the Wolverines, so that the youth who drop-in can travel to nearby communities for games a few times each year and so they can send a team to the Junior All Native.
Since they ask for community support, Henry says the group works to keep involved in the community and give back through volunteering for things like community cleanup and the Terry Fox Run.
They have had a lot of support from the community in Terrace, and were sponsored by the Nisga’a Lisims Government this year in order to travel to the Junior All Native.
“It’s big for them, it’s an experience,” said Henry of the tournament. “They have a good time and they have that team bonding, and that’s my goal.”
Fostering friendships is Henry’s aim through all of the program, not just the tournament.
“I have experience in basketball, in that camaraderie with my friends [on the team]… and they’re my brothers to this day,” Henry said, adding that he wants the same for the youths on the team. “I mentioned that to these girls: respect each other and take care of each other, and be sisters forever… That’s what I want,” he said.