It’s more than just Basketball

Rhonda Lee McIsaac —

From the first jump to final free-throw the eight basketball teams registered for the Annual Clan Tournament did more than ‘practice and play’ against each other over the three-day event. The tournament brought Gaaw and HlGaagilda together in fierce competition, conscious comradery, and community pride!

As much as most of the attention is on the teams, it is also a great event for people watching, a time to catch up with friends and family, over indulge at the concession stand, and be acknowledged for your contribution and volunteer time. Clan pride and knowledge is also seriously important at the event.

“Ultimately, it’s about knowing who you are and where you come from,” exclaimed Xyaalaga Daguuya Desi Collinson, key organizer and community basketball champion. “Each team would have had to find clan members and then clan members who could play basketball,” Xyaalaga Daguuya stated. In addition, as they searched for team members they probably stumbled across other clan information they may not have known about and this “adds more to the purpose of the Clan tournament” he added.

K’agan Jaad  Delavina Lawrence, Citizenship Coordinator for the Council of the Haida Nation was on hand to help sort out any confusion about clans members or history. Lawrence had 25 clan trees at the tournament with their crests, members and hereditary leader’s documented and she handed out the ‘Clan Update Form” to assist in gathering more information for the Clan Trees.

“I really enjoy helping out and being part of the tournament as it also works really well with my day job!” said K’agan Jaad .

In the gym, little kids own the area behind the benches, the nooks and crannies, the sidelines and the time in between quarters on the court. They can be seen cheering from the sidelines, sitting on basketballs, and practising their foul shots alone or with their caretakers and parents.

Those who could yell the loudest were also heard over the already noisy gym, like Junior Saint, Joey Pringle, or SUPERFAN, Haahlginanguu Joan Moody! Above all that the noisiest clan award goes to Gidins. And, many fans cheering over the three-day tournament, resulted in many lost voices and by Saturday night the horns, cowbells, and clappers heightened the cacophony. One fan said the noise level was near an AC/DC concert he had attended – “shoot to thrill”.

On the wall by the kitchen was the team-draw diagram which was consulted by crowds after each game. The schedule was jam packed with exhibition games featuring the girl’s teams and a cancelled ‘Over 50’ game – because there were not enough players to make up two teams. There was also a list of volunteers who all donated to the event in energy, food, water and helped set up and tear down. The concession dollars went to support the Junior Saints Girls team and their bid for the Junior All Native Tournament in Vancouver this March, 2018.

All tournaments are a large undertaking and at this one there are many contributions made by many to make it successful: Scorekeepers, who are always be mindful of the clocks and scores. Get those wrong and you can hear it from the fans. Referees; they take a lot of ribbing and jabs from the fans and teams alike. Emotions run high on the court as adrenaline and energy went from ball grabbing, pushing and shoving, power plays rushing the key, to defending the basket.

For those off-Islands, at work, or at home, they didn’t miss a basket or foul shot because of the ever-popular commentating provided by the Haida Gwaii Radio Society. Former and current players took turns calling the colour. Gwiisihlgaa Dan McNeil, one voice-of-the-tournament, said how hard it was to keep up with the pace of the game.

“Trying to keep up with players like Desi and Tyler can be challenging! You don’t even need to be a player to represent your clan proudly. It’s easily one of the best basketball tournaments of the year for these reasons,” said Gwiisihlgaa , Saints Senior team member and sports commentator. All of this practice and play will pay off at the upcoming All Native Tournament in Prince Rupert coming this February!

This year’s tournament included: Yahgu laanaas, St’langny laanaas/kuunlaanaas from Gaaw who are both new additions. They joined Skedans, T’saahl laanaas, Taanuu, T’saahl, Gidins and Juus. In the end Ts’aahl pulled up their socks and wiped the sweat off their brows to win the top spot with a score of 65-62 against the tough but petered out Juus. Juus had played three games in a row to make it to the finals.

Xyaalaga Daguuya loves the competition, the high spirits and competition raised by each clan and the friendly rivalries between family members in the stands. “Every year seems like it just can’t get any better than the next, but with the atmosphere created and every game being so close in score, it always seems to happen! Hopefully, we can have more clan teams form next year and we get an equal number of clans from the north and south” he says with a grin.

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