A new initiative aimed at boosting school attendance and increasing the number of youths participating in organized sports was launched in Arviat earlier this month.
John Arnalukjuak High School (JAHS) principal Don Peters said the Little NBA Basketball Academy runs on Saturday evenings between 5:30 to 9 p.m.
He said the academy is open to male and female students in all three Arviat schools and is being run by Qitiqliq Middle School teacher Ryan Barbeau.
“Basically, it’s another one of our programs to increase attendance,” said Peters.
“We began a pilot project on Feb. 15 that attracted more than 50 kids of all different ages on our first two weekends.
“We don’t have a lot of baskets – we have to get at least two or three more – but we’re teaching them the skills of basketball rather than just having them play games.
“We’re also having a tournament on March 1 for all basketball players who want to participate. We already have five teams registered and, hopefully, we’re going to bring Baker Lake in so our high school team will have a chance to play.”
Peters said the interest in basketball is growing fairly quickly in Arviat.
He said, hopefully, more kids will be interested in the academy after both the male and female basketball teams representing Nunavut at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG) come to the community the weekend after their tournament for some last minute practice before the AWG get underway on March 15 at Whitehorse, Yukon.
“It’s exciting here now with the various programs we have running and our efforts have really helped revitalize basketball in our community,” he said.
“The sport has taken off like crazy and our basketball academy is mostly being driven by interest from the kids.
“Our JAHS basketball team is also helping Ryan (Barbeau) run the academy, which is a real reach-out-to-the-other-schools program.
“We’re very proud that we’re over 80 per cent attendance at JAHS. The kids are here, and a lot of it has do with the programs we’re running that are devised to bring the kids to school.”
Barbeau said the kids participating in the Little NBA are currently all from JAHS and Qitiqliq Middle School.
He said a friend in his hometown of Belleville, Ont., who runs a Junior NBA in that community, put him in touch with a contact at Canada Basketball who was able to supply the court uniforms they received in Arviat this past week.
“They sent us up about 50 pairs of Raptors shorts and a bunch of reversible jerseys from different teams,” said Barbeau.
“They’re all brand new, made of very nice material and look absolutely awesome.
“Right now, because of the numbers involved, we’re having the kids come out to the academy and dividing them by talent for the session.
“Consistency wise, we’re trying to figure out which kids are going to continue coming every week so we can place them into groups they’re going to stay with, but, for now, we’re placing them in groups based on their overall talent levels.”
Barbeau said the tournament this coming weekend promises to be a lot of fun.
He said he’s hoping to have six to eight teams compete and they’re also holding an all-star three-point shootout on Saturday (Feb. 29) evening.
“Don (Peters) and I both do our open-gym programs, and Don has his Taekwon-Do Club, which are all nights that get the kids out doing some positive.
“There’s a lot of interest in the sport among the kids right now so, hopefully, attendance for our Little NBA program will continue to grow.
“Kids at school are really starting to build a love and appreciation for basketball, so whatever we can do to help grow that here is what we’re going to try.
“We haven’t had a kid from Levi Angmak Elementary School sign-up for the program yet, but it’s open to them and, hopefully, we’ll see a few of the younger kids from that school sign-up as the program continues along.”