Tseshaht hosts major basketball tournament as Nuu-chah-nulth-aht arrive in droves for their love of the game | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Tseshaht hosts major basketball tournament as Nuu-chah-nulth-aht arrive in droves for their love of the game

Port Alberni, BC

This past May long weekend, Tseshaht Lightening hosted a basketball tournament of a caliber that the Alberni Valley has not seen in years, bringing hundreds of players and even more family members to gather around a game dear to Nuu-chah-nulth-aht.

“It runs deep in Port Alberni and in [the] Nuu-chah-nulth community,” said Earl Tatoosh, of Hupacasath and coach of the Cheiftains. “It's kind of been my love since I was six years old.” 

“It was just a family thing; I have five brothers,” added Tatoosh, who played for the Chieftains for fifteen years prior to transitioning to their coach two years ago.

With 44 teams of all ages, in divisions ranging from U13 to Seniors, gymnasiums all over Port Alberni were filled as high intensity games proceeded over a period of three days. 

“It's the biggest tournament we've had in town, basketball-wise for years,” said Tatoosh.

For Anthony McIntosh of Tseshaht and player for the Chieftains, he’s had a basketball in hand since he was ten years old.

Though in his younger years he wasn’t involved in basketball as an organized sport, he tried out for ADSS’s senior boys basketball team in the latter half of high school, playing in Totem 50. 

“[I] tried out for the senior team and [to] my surprise, I made it,” said McIntosh. “It was a pretty good experience.”

McIntosh also shares his love of basketball with his eight-year-old son, who plays on newly established U13 team.

“If he’s with me, he’s hooping,” said McIntosh. 

“I thought it'd be good to see them out and learn this game the way we did growing up,” he said of the newly established U13 basketball team.

McIntosh shared that he’s excited to see his son get into a sport that, as his dad, he can help him grow and evolve into. 

“I’m very proud of Ed Ross and what he’s doing in this community,” said McIntosh. “I’ve been a basketball player my whole life so to see something of this caliber… to involve everybody, is amazing.”

Ross shared with Ha-Shilth-Sa that over the course of the weekend he ran into countless uplifted family members rushing from venue to venue watching their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.

As a coach, Ross said, he gets to “see [the players] demeanor when Dad, Mom, Uncle, Auntie walk through the door.”

“I can see their backs get proud, and I can see that their effort gets more,” he shared. “I can see the strength that that brings… when their parents or [whoever] comes through the door.”

But Ross also sees the flip side of the coin when the crowd doesn't show up.

“That's why we wanted to have this tournament,” said Ross. “Our first heroes are mom and dad, and to be able to witness your mom and dad play and then vice versa, being able to watch your son or daughter or niece.”

“We really wanted to create that dynamic of just togetherness,” said Ross. “Just bleeding and sweating together, and growing together and bonding together, and just that medicine of being together.”

On Saturday morning, the Alberni Athletic Hall grew thunderously loud with song and cheer at the tournament's opening ceremonies. Participating teams presented themselves to the cheering crowd, then finding their place around the drumming circle. 

“The opening ceremonies, seeing all the youth participate in the culture as well, and being centered around all of the young upcoming basketball players is really awesome,” said Tatoosh.

For the next generation of basketball players, Tatoosh hopes the game offers them the same thing it offered him over the years.

“A sense of community, a sense of brotherhood with their teammates, an outlet to… leave everything out on the floor - whatever you're going through, it's a safe space for you to let everything out,” said Tatoosh. “To compete, and work towards a common goal with all of your teammates, and sportsmanship.”

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