The NT boys’ basketball team is shooting for gold in the upcoming North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but for some, this will be their last shot at the competition.
“For most of us, it’s our last year,” says Ty Lafferty, representing Behchokǫ̀ at this year’s games.
Lafferty, Justin Stewart, Lydell Macnab and Sean Grandjambe have been friends for years. They plan on leaning into their brotherhood to bring home the gold.
“I feel like our strength in our bond is going to be able to help us out on the court and be able to put trust within each other,” says Macnab.
The boys say they’re ready for the challenge. Even if the competition is twice their height, they’re really looking forward to making memories and learning new skills along the way.
“At the end of the day, win or lose, I think the friendships that we’re going to make and getting closer (to each other) is going to be the bigger picture at the end of the trip,” says Captain Stewart.
Currently, the boys are in Calgary at a training camp with Team Alberta to prepare them for the big day.
The boys say they’re filling up on eggs, chicken, and rice to help offset the competition.
Due to COVID, this is the first event since 2017. It runs from July 16-23.
As the competition nears, over 200 athletes across the N.W.T. are gearing up for the most anticipated event of the summer.
Athletes take off on June 15.
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Lafferty has been playing sports since the age of four and says it has contributed positively to his mental health, friendships, schooling, and overall outlook on life, but not every youth gets the same opportunities to participate.
“I look at sports as a distraction from life,” says Lafferty, “When a kid is playing a sport, they’re not thinking about life, they’re not thinking about what’s going on at home.”
If it wasn’t for the hospitality and allowances of smaller communities giving children access to the space and equipment to practice, Lafferty says he wouldn’t be in the position he is today.
In Yellowknife, he says, it’s a totally different experience for athletes.
“A lot of it you have to pay for,” he says, “And so it does suck if you’re not on one of those teams because there’s no free gym.”
Since graduating high school, Lafferty has been working at Range Lake School in Yellowknife, “I know a lot of kids that don’t get that opportunity but could thrive from that opportunity. It’s really sad to see.”
After NAIG, some of the boys wish to give back to their community, become coaches, and help develop future Northern athletes.