Native Youth Olympics show true meaning of sportsmanship

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While some sports bolster competition, getting the upper hand and winning, the Native Youth Olympics focuses on personal best and friendship, regardless of what team they represent. The Native Youth Olympics, which is open to all youth, of any nationality, hosted a meet Friday at Randy Smith Middle School. Both Middle School and High School teams were represented.
The One Hand Reach event is just one unique test of strength where athletes balance the weight on the palm or knuckles of one hand, then reach with their free hand to touch a suspended ball. Then without touching their body to the ground the athlete places their free hand on the floor.
A Native Youth Olympic Competitor, Trevor Edwards, talks about the origin of the games. “The reason they did this,” Edwards explained, “is because they have been doing these games for hundreds if not thousands of years. It was too cold to go outside and to stay fit and build their muscles for when they go hunting.”
Inside the gym students watched quietly as each athlete carefully and cautiously lifted themselves off the ground. Edwards was quick to assist when he saw something that would improve his competitor’s attempt, which according to North Pole’s head coach, Michael Hollett, is just part of the game.
“When you have kids from different teams trying to coach each other, that’s a huge part of the Alaska Native culture. We all have to work together in order to survive. If you’re better then it forces me to be better which makes all of us better.” Hollett went on to say, “It’s all about community, those relationships. If you notice something that your opponent could do to make them better then it’s your responsibility to tell them, because if you beat them, you want to beat them at their best.”
Edwards said he began training in the sport three years ago. “Because of this sport I have learned so much about myself and have grown confident in myself,” he explained. “I’ve learned so much over the years from athletes who became role models for me and the games. They emulate a level of respect among all athletes, no matter where you are from. So I have competed against people from Canada and the atmosphere is a positive one in which we coach each other, we all cheer each other on and everybody is family,” Edwards said.
As teams lined up for the ribbon ceremony, it was clear it did not matter what team they were from or what school they represented. Alaskan athletes helping each other in order to succeed.
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