PFFNHS hosts Providence University, Lakehead University sports camps
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
More than 30 Pelican Falls First Nations High School (PFFNHS) students showed off their hoops and volleyball skills on March 23 and 30 during sports camps hosted at the school in partnership with Providence University College, whose campus is approximately 45 minutes south of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Lakehead University, who are located in Thunder Bay.
“Providence also runs a sports camp throughout the summer for basketball and volleyball. For our students to go to a sports camp is a very large challenge… By bringing the sports camps here, we’re able to provide that opportunity for them, in-house, and also bring the athletes here so they can experience what it’s like to play alongside university athletes,” said PFFNHS athletic director Marc-Nicholas Martin-Paulichenko.
During the day, students participated in drills put on by coaches and players and, during both evenings, players from PFFNHS boys’ and girls’ basketball and volleyball teams joined forces with the university athletes for All-Star games.
When asked about organizing the events, Martin-Paulichenko shared that it was part of organizing activities to help students to continue to grow in sports that are popular at the school.
“The main two sports at our school are basketball and volleyball. Our kids really love volleyball here and they’re starting to get a lot better at basketball. With the seasons ending, and the second semester being a bit slower in terms of sports, we were looking for opportunities to teach kids to enhance their game and teach them more skills,” he said.
“I think it’s really exciting to see our students coming out and not just participating, but showing their willingness to learn. I think it’s going to make not just our programs better, but our athletes better. It will help them build confidence, self-esteem, and their skill,” he continued.
Staff members and athletes from the universities agreed that the students showed willingness to learn and improvement in their skills in just the short time the camps were there.
“I think it’s encouraging to see the growth. Just in the two hours we’ve been here, we’ve seen some talented kids and there’s been improvement in just the short time we’ve been here,” said Providence women’s basketball coach Joel Coursey during the camp.
“There’s already been improvement and they’re learning really fast, so that’s good to see. They respond well to teaching, which is always what you want to see when you try to coach people,” shared Hannah Shortreed, who is a first-year Lakehead University student and women’s volleyball varsity athlete.
When asked about both camps, students had nothing but good things to say about the experiences.
“I think it’s a great opportunity… I see everyone here is enjoying their time, especially when these athletes are taking their time to progress our skills and teach us the fundamentals of the sports,” said grade 11 student Jordan Mekanak.
“I think it’s great because students who aren’t even athletes are trying it out, which is great to see. These camps have been fun, and I hope we have more of them in the future,” said Alyssa Kakegamic, a grade 10 student.
The amount of participation from students was encouraging to see for Martin-Paulichenko, especially as the school gears up for the Ontario Native Basketball Invitational in Thunder Bay.
“From what we’ve seen over the last couple of years, our basketball program is really growing. There seems to be more and more kids interested in taking their game further… We’re also putting together a male team and a female team for the Ontario Native Basketball Invitational in Thunder Bay in April, so this is the perfect training camp, you could say, for that tournament,” he explained.
According to the Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario website, “The 5th edition of the Ontario Native Basketball Invitational is scheduled to take place in Thunder Bay, ON from April 18-21, 2019. The 2019 ONBI will kick off on Thursday evening with a social, featuring a welcome from an Elder, local Chiefs and Indigenous leadership and inspirational speakers.”
The sports camps provided students with opportunities to learn from post-secondary athletes, but it also allowed them to learn and ask questions regarding their academic future as well.
“Yes we want to bring sports, but we also want to bring the academic side to show our students the options and opportunities they have once they finish high school. You can go to a small university like Providence where there are only two to three hundred people or you can go to a large university in a place like Thunder Bay where there’s a ton of people in a city. It helps them explore their options and see that after high school there are sports and academics,” said Martin-Paulichenko.
During this past season, the PFFNHS athletic department tried to emphasize the excitement and pride around being an athlete at the school, and they’re hoping that excitement will continue to build and improve the athletic program.
“I think, this year, what we tried to do in our athletic department is build some excitement around athletics and being an athlete. We did anything from putting decals around the school, we had an orientation, we did player posters that displayed who was on each team to give them that sense of pride, and we also had a new motto this year. We have the three c’s, which are commitment, character, and coachable…The more we can continue to build excitement about our sports program, I think the results will show,” Martin-Paulichenko concluded.