Paige Crozon is the general manager of the new Living Skies Indigenous basketball league and she’s excited to get this ambitious project off the ground. From the seed of an idea, The Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League is blossoming and becoming an incredible Saskatchewan story.
The Living Skies Indigenous Basketball League creates opportunities for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 17 to participate in basketball, and also to provide off-court development for young athletes to help them become more well-rounded. Ten locations throughout the province will host four teams each: a boys’ team and a girls’ team for each age group of 11-14 and 15-17. Each region will run out of the ten Friendship Centres throughout Saskatchewan. The League feels there’s a need for youth to spend time in sports in a lot of the communities where the friendship centres are located; COVID-19 disrupted a lot of their programming, and many youth are struggling with mental health damage caused by the effects of the pandemic.
Paige says, “We’re hoping to provide this opportunity to play, and although it’s an Indigenous Basketball League, anyone can participate. All athletes who come onboard, regardless of their cultural background, will learn about the game, and also be given a toolkit for athletes: cultural education from elders and knowledge keepers, athlete’s workbooks grounded in Indigenous ways of knowing, resume writing skills, along with a variety of different skills, resiliency, and mental wellness. Overall, the workshop’s directions will come from the youth and what they want to learn about.” Part of the League’s commitment to reconciliation is for Indigenous youth to guide the leadership on the direction of the workshop component, and as youth give this guidance, they in turn learn and develop a sense of self-identity.
Originally from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Paige grew up playing sports with the Saskatchewan Provincial Basketball Team, and then with the National Team. She went to The States, where she played in Utah and then went on to play in Germany. She’s still a member of three-on-three basketball and she says, “Sport has been an integral part of my life, and it’s instilled so many characters and values, which has turned me into the person I am today. This is why I’m so passionate about instilling this League for youth so I can share with them my love of sports. My full scholarship to The States gave me an opportunity. Sport instills many lessons: discipline, teamwork, communication, and it provides the pathway for travel, making connections, opening up doors.” She smiles and adds, “And maybe playing basketball at the university level, like I did.”
Community leader, Mike Tanton, who is deeply involved with The League, says, ‘I always wanted to see something like this happen. As I got older and got more into providing programming for youth, I saw there was a need for this league—we don’t have a Province wide basketball league—so I sat down with our community to talk about how we’d love to see it roll out. I reached out to Tracey Bert, Indigenous Inclusion Consultant with the City of Saskatoon, and then we began a grant application. The Federal Government approved our application to get the league started, and it’s just growing from there.”
The League has opened its site up to registration. To remove any barriers, entry is free for all participants. Now they need athletes to sign up and register on the website. They’ve also put out a call for coaches—they want to build capacity for certified coaches throughout Saskatchewan. They’ll provide education and support for the coaches to create sustainability with community partners and funders. Each community, post-COVID, will be given the opportunity to host games and the provincial tournament will be held in Saskatoon. It’s exciting that the Federal Government is keeping an eye on how this league is being laid out so they can utilise it as a template for future leagues for other provinces.
Laura Dally, who played with the Huskies when they won their national championship and with the Canadian National team, is also working for the League. She brings her love of basketball and her expertise to the team. At the moment, she’s working to help them raise another $50,000, and they’re actively looking for sponsors for their work. Paige says, “Overall, I hope youth are able to build their skill set on the court and off the court, so they are better able to handle the future and become self-sufficient.” Mike adds, “I think for the future for youth, I want to see them utilise the League as a stepping-stone so they can become leaders in their communities.
The League are working on having an online donation area on their site, and they’re accepting cheques, made out to Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan.
To get in contact with Paige or Mike, contact The Indigenous Basketball League
Paige Crozon: (306) 231-6211, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Tanton: email@example.com
And take time over on the website: www.livingskiesbasketball.com