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Girls basketball camp helps improve skills

Thursday September 15, 2011
One of the Fort Albany basketball players drives for a lay up during a basketball skill session at the Aboriginal Girls Basketball Camp, hosted Aug. 29-31 by the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario at Hammarskjold High School. (Rick Garrick/Wawatay News)

A group of Fort Albany basketball players brought their game to the Aboriginal Girls Basketball Camp Aug. 29-31 in Thunder Bay.

“I like defence, I like guarding,” said Vera Metatawabin, one of seven basketball players from Fort Albany. “When I stop the ball from someone, I just get a good feeling.”

Metatawabin also enjoys taking three-point shots and driving in to the basket. “We just practice, practice, practice,” Metatawabin said. “We like to practice all the time.”

Metatawabin and about 30 other Grade 5-12 Aboriginal girls from across Ontario attended the basketball camp, which was hosted by the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario (ASWCO) at Hammarskjold High School.

A group of Lakehead University Thunderwolves basketball players provided coaching each day as did a group of Aboriginal coaches. Lakehead University Thunderwolves basketball head coach Jon Kreiner also helped out on the first day of the basketball camp.

After picking up some training and skill techniques from the university basketball players, Metatawabin is considering her future goals in basketball. She has played basketball from Grade 6 to Grade 10.

“I do want to play university basketball,” Metatawabin said. “I really want to play basketball in my life.”

The basketball camp featured skills development, game basics, scrimmages, fitness sessions, a girl empowerment session and a movie night.

“Shooting is the big thing – they’re learning how to shoot,” said Jasmine Sutherland, one of the Aboriginal coaches and an Aboriginal Team Ontario basketball player at the last two North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). “They’re learning defence, offence, all the spots on offence, they’re learning passing and pivoting and ball handling.”

NAIG is a sporting event for Indigenous athletes in North America held in various locations throughout Canada and the United States since 1990.

Sutherland, a Lakehead University student originally from Moose Factory, saw a big improvement in the younger girls’ skill levels during the basketball camp.

“They don’t know how to play basketball and they are learning so much,” Sutherland said. “It’s good to see them smile and learn.”

“Their skill level has improved dramatically,” said Marc Laliberte, another Aboriginal coach and chair of ASWCO. “They seem to be more confident in their abilities and the way they are conducting themselves.”

Andrea Yesno-Linklater, a youth from Thunder Bay, learned how to shoot better at the basketball camp.

“I always stick my arm out when I shoot, so they told me to tuck it in and it will help me score better,” Yesno-Linklater said. “When you’re defending, you have to be quick on your feet.”

ASWCO plans to hold another basketball camp for girls next summer. The selection process for NAIG 2014 Aboriginal Team Ontario girl’s basketball team will be held during the summer of 2013.

Sutherland encourages youth to aim for the NAIG. She said her experience at games was “unforgettable.”

“I say go for it because it is such a good experience to travel away from your home town and meet other First Nations and play the sport that you love,” she said.

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