Apr 27, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorUnder the roof of the teepee-shaped building which is the original gym on the campus of St. Stephen's Indian School is a place where young basketball players can go to seek safe haven from the trials and tribulations of growing up in modern-day society and simply play the game they love.
On April 19, as the late afternoon sun poured in through the west windows of the iconic structure at the historic school, sounds of sneakers squeaking on the shiny hardwood floor were mixed with laughter, as youngsters ran up and down the court, back and forth, chasing the big, round orange orb which was the reason everyone in attendance was there, players and parents alike.
It was Championship Day for the Lil' Beaks youth basketball program, which was instituted by St. Stephen's as a way of providing a solid foundation for the future of Eagles basketball.
Beyond that, it gives kids a place to learn the game in an environment which promotes fair play, teamwork and simply having fun.
Lil' Beaks is in its second year of existence, started by St. Stephen's superintendent Frank No Runner, Cultural Beading teacher Pattee Bement and sixth-grade teacher Greg Juneau for kindergarten through fourth-grade-level players, with the addition of junior high teacher Michael Comes At Night to the coaching staff this season.
The program runs from November to April. Students practice twice a week, with the goals of developing fundamentals, leadership, goal-setting, teamwork, communication, work ethic and kinesthetic learning. No score is kept, and games are run in four-minute durations. Teams are always different, so all students can work with different ages and abilities.
Aside from basketball itself, which provides a focal point to rally around, more importantly the game is a vehicle for young players to learn not only what it takes to be successful on the court, but off, as well.
Virtues such as humility, respect, punctuality, safety, concentration, focus, practice, persistence and listening are only some of the primary aspects which are stressed to the participants.
According to No Runner, Lil' Beaks fosters an environment conducive to developing sound fundamentals for academics, community harmony and simply life in general.
"We want to create a partnership with the community," said No Runner. "It's also a way to create an ongoing dialogue about the goals and strategies of the school for the parents and their children. Also, it creates trust and eliminates barriers between the community and school."
On this day, there was a fundraiser for the program in the form of a contest between members of the St. Stephen's staff and employees of the Wind River Casino.
The game represented an example of exactly the kind of cohesion and synergy the school is attempting to create within the community, said No Runner.
"We've created a Parent Advisory Group which meets once a month, the second Monday of every month," he said. "The focus of the group is assessment of students and an ongoing dialogue to create a partnership with the parents to have a voice and choice in the school district. Events such as these are planned by the group. Any and all parents are welcome to attend the meetings."
For the faculty of St. Stephen's, the game was an extension of a squad which already existed, so the game with casino personnel to raise money for Lil' Beaks was a no-brainer once the concept was conceived, said No Runner.
"Our staff participated in the Northern Arapaho Co-ed basketball league in 2017 and also plays exhibition games with other teams on Wednesday nights to build camaraderie, provide exercise and promote team building," he said. "Wind River Casino employee Shane Limpy approached me about the idea, and we were looking for fundraisers to send our Lil' Beaks basketball players either on an end-of-the-year trip or to a basketball camp at the University of Utah."
Members of the St. Stephen's squad included No Runner, Bement, Juneau, school counselor Josh Mink, central office clerk Jasmine McGill, K-8 secretary Alicia Dixon, Comes At Night and high school custodian and former Eagles player Derrick Williams.
St. Stephen's defeated Wind River Casino by a score of 89-85, but that didn't matter.
What did matter was the game was a natural fit for the program and its goals, said No Runner.
"Most of the casino employees' children participate in Lil' Beaks program," he said. "The night was a success and we plan on playing twice annually with the competition being for a trophy cup that will be displayed back and forth with the winning team."
St. Stephen's - 27 18 13 31 - 89
Wind River - 15 18 20 32 - 85
St. Stephen's - L. Jace Killsback 3, Holly Weston 2, Skylar Little Shield 4, Pattee Bement 2, Rachael Rapp 2, Derrick Williams 8, Norman Willow 22, Greg Juneau 18, Frank No Runner 26, Michael Comes At Night 2, Ricky Blackburn 0, Julia C'Bearing 0, Shelly Little Shield 0, Jasmine McGill 0.
Wind River - Shell 7, Faith Wallowing Bull 5, Emeryl 2, Lenny Arthur 9, Charlie 5, Bon Ridgley 2, Jaron Arthur 29, Steve Harris 18, Mike Jenkins 8, Breanna 0, Mikayla 0.
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