Maaqtusiis School sports programs yield promising athletes

By Denise Titian, April 26, 2017

Ahousaht players role models on and off the field.

Ahousaht — 

It’s been two years since Cedar Wechlin, Ahousaht’s Athletic director at Maaqtusiis schools, began working with young athletes and volunteer coaches and positive results are starting to show.

“Our student athletes have made some awesome accomplishments this year,” said Wechlin. Eight Ahousaht children have made the 2017 NAIG (North American Indigenous Games) Team BC.

The Maaqtusiis High School student basketball players that made NAIG Team BC are Marietta Kaloucokovale, Sereana Kaloucokovale, and Keitha-lyn Atleo. Another Ahousaht member living in Nanaimo, Qwammi Robinson, also made the boy’s Team BC.

Four more Maaqtusiis School students are competing for Team BC in Track & Field. They are Jaylynn Keitlah, Shandon Thomas, Janae Sam, and Samara Swan.

In addition, Samara Swan, a Grade 6 student, made the Under 14 NAIG Team BC basketball team. “She’s amazing; I believe she will be WNBA material someday,” said a very proud coach Wechlin.

Another Ahousaht athletics success story is Grade 12 student Nigel Charlie who is a senior basketball player.

“He played in the BC Boys High School Provincial All-star game,” said Wechlin, adding that he was selected to fill one of five spots. According to Wechlin, players could be selected anywhere in the province of British Columbia, and Charlie made it into the top five; that’s very impressive.

Wechlin credits the student athlete’s success to rigorous training programs and the help of parent volunteer coaches. Besides scheduled training at the school, parent coaches Travis Thomas and Maya Kaloucokovale work with the kids at other types of workouts like running and weight training.

“They lift weights, they’re cross training and they’re running,” said Wechlin. One of the students, Samara Swan, has made an early morning run on the beach part of her daily routine.

In addition to the physical training the students in the athletic program have committed to their academic education by signing contracts promising to achieve at least 65 per cent in their classes. Their dedication and discipline is so great that 17 of the students made the Honour Roll.

“They are role models on and off the court,” said Wechlin. They appreciate the structure and routine and understand the discipline of training.

The athletes also work on sportsmanship. Wechlin says they understand that there is a negative stereo-type out there of first nations athletes coming from remote communities.

“Sportsmanship is really big for us and we’re working to break that stereo-type and set a good example.”

Surrounded by the ocean, beaches and having access to two gyms, Ahousaht has a vast training ground for its athletes. Wechlin says organized volleyball has been added to the list of sporting activities in the community with the formation of a new volleyball team.

With all the athletic success in the community, Wechlin hopes to draw the attention of scouts and colleges. Shakayla Thomas, a young basketball player, is being scouted by at least two post-secondary institutions for her promising athleticism.

The Maaqtusiis Athletic Program is producing basketball players that can compete at provincial and national levels. Its success allows the school to connect with other schools, building relationships and opening doors to other tournaments.

“It’s expensive to send the teams out on basketball tournaments,” said Wechlin, adding that the water taxi fare alone is $600 a trip. “Now we can invite them to come here, like sister schools and have a cultural exchange.”

Wechlin pointed out that there are plenty of Ahousaht students living in Vancouver that have never had the opportunity to come home.

The North American Indigenous Games will take place in Toronto from July 16 to July 23. Each of the athletes that made Team BC must raise $450 each. Wechlin says the parents have been proactive in fundraising efforts.