Tyendinaga athletes represent community at big events

This story was published in the Winter 2023 issue of Total Sports Quinte magazine

Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte

The previous issue (Fall 2022) of Total Sports Quinte magazine included a feature on Tyendinaga basketball players who competed at the Ontario Summer Indigenous Games.

Tyendinaga was represented by four teams – U16 girls, U16 boys, U19 women and U19 men – at the event held July 28 to 31 at the University of Ottawa.

Those teams were called the Kenhtè:ke Wolves. The U16 girls won gold while the U19 men earned silver and the U19 women captured bronze. The U16 boys were also in medal contention, but were edged in the bronze medal game.

“I think the players take a lot of pride in being able to represent their community,” said Jamie McCourt, who helped coach Wolves teams. “Obviously they have pride and excitement in personal accomplishments in making a team like that, but I think the biggest thing is the pride they have in representing Tyendinaga. Lots of them will bring a Tyendinaga flag or things like that and you meet all kinds of other Indigenous people at the opening ceremonies and things like that.”

See quinte.totalsportsmedia.ca for the digital version of the Fall 2022 magazine and all previous magazines.

There won’t be an Ontario Summer Indigenous Games this year and that’s because the event doesn’t run the year when the North American Indigenous Games take place. NAIG is scheduled for July 15-23 in Halifax, Nova Scotia this year.

Tryouts have already been underway for different teams. In fact, McCourt said there was a great turnout from Tyendinaga athletes at tryouts in January for Ontario basketball and volleyball teams that will compete at NAIG.

Teams are expected to be selected in April. For any Tyendinaga players who are interested, but haven’t yet attended a tryout, McCourt said it’s not too late. Tryouts can even be conducted virtually. All of the information for in-person tryout dates or to submit virtually is available through the Indigenous Sports and Wellness Ontario at www.iswo.ca.

“You could submit film of yourself doing something and there’s all kinds of different things (to compete in at NAIG),” McCourt said. “There’s swimming, volleyball, lacrosse, beach volleyball, wrestling, archery, shooting, canoeing, kayak, there’s athletics so you’ve got all the track events.”

There’s also badminton, baseball, golf and soccer.

McCourt will help coach Ontario’s U14 girls basketball at NAIG. He’s previously coached the U16 girls in 2017 in Toronto and U19 men in 2014 in Regina. He said it’s a great opportunity for the players to not only compete, but experience opening ceremonies, the athletes’ village, cultural village as well as what university life could be like through staying in dorms and going to the cafeteria and so on.

“For me as a coach I think that’s the real rewarding part is seeing them in those situations as well.” McCourt said. “It’s always awesome to be successful on the athletics side, but that social, cultural reinforcement is huge.”

McCourt encourages Tyendinaga athletes to check out ISWO for the North American Indigenous Games tryouts as well as future Ontario Indigenous Summer Games tryouts. There’s also opportunities to compete in regional tournaments such as the Ontario Native Basketball Invitational (ONBI) and Ontario Native Volleyball Invitational (ONVI).

“Those count as NAIG qualifiers so if you were on a team that’s going to ONBI, there’s going to be coaches there that will be scouting for Team Ontario,” McCourt said.

There are also Masters Indigenous Games for adults aged 20 and older to compete in with this year’s event being held in Ottawa from Aug. 24-27. Check ISWO for details on how to register.