ADAM JACKSON/Ponoka News
Youths from Hobbema will have the opportunity to both compete in sports and learn valuable life lessons next week.
Children ages 12 to 18 from the Samson, Montana, Ermineskin and Louis Bull bands are travelling to Edmonton for the first annual Alberta Indigenous Games from July 17 to 22.
“It’s a great way for them to get out and meet other people and experience new things,” said Shawn Threefingers, Louis Bull director of recreation.
In a combined effort, Louis Bull will send two basketball teams, two baseball teams, a golf team, a track and field team and a girls softball team to Edmonton. The athletes on the teams are from Louis Bull band as well as Samson, Ermineskin and Montana.
“It’s not all about the competition or winning at all,” said Threefingers. “I’ve seen kids who are involved in sports excel in so many areas — confidence, self-esteem and leadership.”
The first annual Alberta Indigenous Games comes on the heels of the cancelation of the North American Indigenous Games, cut due to a disagreement between the North American Indigenous Games council and the party that was to host the event.
“It works out to be an advantage for us that the (North American Indigenous) games were cancelled,” said Threefingers. “Edmonton is just a short drive away, so we can get as many kids there as possible.”
As for the money associated with having the kids involved in the many competitions, the bands of the children themselves will take care of the costs.
There is a lot of hard work put in by Threefingers and other parents and chaperones.
“It’s definitely worth it,” said Threefingers. “Not only is it my job and duty to do that as the director of recreation, it’s important to show the kids the benefit of sport.”
Threefingers, who has been coaching lacrosse, hockey and softball for more than nine years, has seen firsthand what sport can do for youths in Hobbema.
He used the example of one young athlete who was looking to put together a midget basketball team.
“She started it, needed help and came to me,” said Threefingers. “Then after that, she did all the legwork. “It’s great to see things like that — a lot of kids are taking initiative and excelling in other areas like school because of it.”