Sports

First Nations youth thrive in a new sports program

The program’s mission statement is to “inspire, build self-esteem and develop future community leaders through sport.’’

By all accounts, the 24*7 program for youth aged 11 to 18 created by the H’ulh-etun Health Society is filling its mandate remarkably well. The community youth program for the Penelakut, Malahat, Halalt and Lyackson First Nations bands is off to a running start in providing an opportunity and basic sports equipment for youth to participate.

“It’s a great program,’’ said Tyler George, the interim executive director of the H’ulh-etun Health Society.

“We’re really happy with it. Obviously, we’re trying to inspire our youth through sport.

“We want to be proactive rather than reactive.’’

Elite level coaching provided by the likes of Dave Warbeck in soccer is helping to develop the fitness goals and athletic abilities of the participants.

Economic barriers are also being removed that might normally have prevented aboriginal youth from taking part.

Transportation is provided to and from training while nutritious food is supplied and emphasized.

Youth are learning about diabetes and obesity while injury management, athlete self-care, basic anatomy and physiology information is proving to be inspirational for the athletes.

Sessions are being held every Friday and every other Saturday at the moment. There are 45 boys and girls currently registered for the program, with 28 to 35 typically turning out each time.

“We’re hoping to expand it,’’ said George.

“Our hope is to intervene early and often in people’s health.’’

The health society that runs the program is a non-profit organization, with funding through the Vancouver Island Health Authority and Health Canada.

“Working with those agencies has been great,’’ said George, who also has Stephanie Sam working with the program.

Youth are receiving a positive focus through the activities.

“We’ve got pledges that say drug and substance-free — commit to the program,’’ said George.

“It’s to provide alternatives to the youth instead of going out drinking or sitting at home gaming.’’

Sports include not only soccer, but boxing, lacrosse, football and baseball depending on the season.

The feedback has been incredibly positive.

Riley (Breakaway Speed) Jack, 17, is sold on the benefits of the program.

“I think it’s gotten everybody into shape and where they want to be — pushing themselves,’’ he said.

Jack runs the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds.

Nicole Jack, 17, stepbrother of Riley, loves sports — especially soccer.

“I think it’s an awesome program,’’ she said. “I’m in shape more than I was last year.’’

Eating habits have made an impression on Jack.

“We’re starting to eat healthy, not as much calories and stuff — vegetables and the greens,’’ she said.

Jack was in Vancouver and moved back to the valley in November.

“It took me a while to join,’’ she said. “I was kind of lazy.’’

Once she discovered the program, her energy level increased dramatically. Jack has lost 17 pounds in four months.

“I want to be a teacher and a soccer coach,’’ said Jack. “I’m going to use this program for how we train the kids.’’

“I’m just so happy on a Friday they come out to have a consistent turnout,’’ said George. “It’s pretty inspiring to me.’’

Warbeck provides inspiration strictly through his credentials. He’s done massage therapy work for the Minnesota Vikings National Football League team as well as injury work and youth corrections.

Warbeck moved to Mill Bay in 2000 and is putting his experiences into action.

“It helps me react to the youth and hopefully give them some direction,’’  he said.

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