Sealaska’s vision to empower and create meaningful opportunities for youth in the region came to life on Nov. 23-24 at the Hoops 4 Life Basketball Camp in Sitka, AK. In partnership with Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Sealaska worked to create a unique experience for Sitka youth to learn basketball fundamentals and the importance of nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices.

More than 300 youth in grades K-12 participated in the clinic. The athletes were greeted on the first day and given a few basic instructions: be positive, encourage each other and have fun.

“We were less concerned about their skill level as much as we were about their attitude and willingness to learn and support each other,” said Matt Carle, Sealaska’s Director of Community Outreach.

One of the instructors, Chris Bryant, was a former standout basketball player at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Bryant currently owns a personal fitness studio in Anchorage where he does one-on-one coaching for clients. Throughout the camp, he emphasized the importance of preparing one’s body before serious skill work by guiding the athletes through a series of dynamic movement activations.

“My hope is that through events like this, our youth can see the value in empowering each other and learning that encouraging their teammates and showing good sportsmanship is just as important as the wins and losses,” said Damen Bell-Holter, Sealaska’s Director of Youth Development.

“Basketball is just the vehicle to teach about life skills,” said Carle. “Our belief is that if we can build their leadership skills at an early age, we have an opportunity to set them on a path to be successful future leaders for our people and our communities.”

For many in Southeast Alaska, the basketball court is a natural connecting point. The recent Hoops 4 Life Camp was a great example of that, connecting students to the fundamentals of the sport and about life.