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Women in Yellowknife will soon hear the sounds of swooshing nets and squeaky gym floors as women’s basketball returns this winter. 

YKBA board member Bridget Rusk is spearheading the league – the first YKBA has run in years. 

A women’s basketball league is returning to Yellowknife this winter. Bridget Rusk of the Yellowknife Basketball Association is launching the league set to start in the coming weeks. NNSL file photo

The league is, for pandemic reasons, not without restrictions.

Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (YK1) is opening its gyms to public groups starting Saturday. For all five schools, facilities will be cleaned before public groups come in, and again after they leave. 

In a press release earlier this week, YK1 superintendent Ed Lippert said gym bookings, which are administered through the city of Yellowknife, will be scheduled sparingly and records of participants will be kept for contact tracing purposes. 

While Lippert noted safety as YK1’s first priority, he also acknowledged the school district “values and understands the importance of exercise and physical wellness, especially during the colder months.”

Participants should come ready to hit the courts as there is no change room access, players are encouraged to remain cognizant of distancing on the sidelines, and everyone entering the schools must wear a mask – though the mask can be removed once participants enter the gym. 

Gym capacities will be capped at 25 people – that includes players, referees, and scorekeepers. Teams will be limited to a maximum of 10 people per game, though Rusk adds they can have more on the roster that rotate through the schedule. 

Setting up the league has been “a bit of a song and dance,” Rusk said, but “we’ll build the avenue for the women and then hopefully they’ll come.” 

In the past, Yellowknife women wanting to play basketball would compete against the U19 High Performance girls team – a competitive travelling team of high schoolers. 

When Rusk began playing in Yellowknife last year, she said she met many people that way but encountered even more women hesitant to compete against the high schoolers for fear of injury or level of athleticism but otherwise interested in joining a league.  

She said she created the YKBA league because she “wanted to play basketball.”

“No one seemed to be stepping up, so (I figured) I guess I’ll do it.”

Roughly 35 women have so far expressed interest in lacing-up for the league, probably enough for three teams Rusk said, maybe four. 

She suspects it will be a week-by-week trial. After seeing everyone’s skill level, she said they’ll have a better idea of how to form even teams. 

On top of the “structured league,” Rusk also hopes to run a drop-in night for those wanting to play who may not be able to commit to a team on a weekly basis, but that will depend on available gym times. 

The YKBA men’s league will also be going ahead with the same restrictions in place.

For anyone interested in taking part, Rusk invites Yellowknifers to contact her directly or to fill out the YKBA participation form.

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Natalie Pressman

Natalie is a graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program. She has since held contracts working with an NGO in Vietnam and with Journalists for Human Rights in Iskatewizaagegan #39 Independent...

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