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"Little Dribblers" 3rd & 4th Grade Basketball game and Harlem Crowns Traveling Basketball Team
Picture Gallery - April 23, 2014
Leauge Play Continues for Youth of Fort Berthold
MHA Times, Issue 39 - October 9, 2013
By LM Baker
   In the fourth week of their existence, the fifth and sixth graders of the New Town, Parshall, White Shield, Mandaree and Twin Buttes traveled to New Town on Saturday afternoon for their weekly fall league of friendly scrimmage in football and volleyball.
    Kevin Finley, who was the basketball coach for Mandaree two years ago when they took the consolation championship at the North Dakota State “B” Basketball Tournament, saw a need for youth to get active a young age to prepare for athletics in the future.
   “In Bismarck, they start them out playing football in first grade and then they got into full contact at third grade,” said Finley. “What I saw here, was a sense of the programs not dying out but needing help. What we thought here is that we could teach them the basics and the fundamentals of the little things that sometimes get passed up in football; the correct stance, what a cadence is, what your spacing is in your line and the terminology. More importantly, we wanted to give our kids something to do in their free time not that no one isn’t doing anything but on a Saturday, or after school, they all get together as a team and the things that they are going to learn on this team sport are carried on in life. The discipline it requires, getting to practice every day, getting there on time, treating your teammates with respect and wanting to do the right things.”
   Finley knows that athletics and academics go hand-in-hand and it is important to teach the youth at a young age to fulfill the need of the studies to be able to participate in sports.
   “You have to be eligible before you can play in sports,” said Finley. “The New Town Principal told me this week, that he doesn’t have any kids that are missing assignments and that they were all eligible. For us that is what it really is about is the academics and getting their studies done.
   On a brisk, Saturday afternoon, young local talent took sides and fought for every yard. In addition to the football program, volleyball teams go to the Northern Lights to play every weekend.
   “I think all of the teams are evenly balanced,” said Finley. “If there is any drawback to it, it is that we are so spread apart. Twin Buttes comes over here and we appreciate them as well as their parents and that goes with all of the teams. You look at the stands and there are cars end-to-end here. I saw people giving each other hugs the first day and these kids brought a lot of families together with our reservation that is spread throughout. To us, that is really important that we really get families together and families to coordinate so we can get the support here.
    With the central location that New Town provides for the Fort Berthold Reservation, Finley hopes that more towns within the Three Affiliated Tribes can host days for sporting events.
    “It just makes more sense having it here, having the volleyball and football here because of the facility that we have at the Northern Lights and it is also a centralized area,” said Finley. “Next year, we hope to have basketball and follow with other programs then we hope other towns can host days.”
Finley said within two weeks that volleyball championships will be decided in Twin Buttes and the football championships will be in New Town.
   The Three Affiliated Tribes was crucial in providing all of the equipment that their respective sports requires.
   “The tribe put in $300,000 and we bought them all of their equipment that is required,” said Finley. “All of the communities have the same thing from head-to-toe from football to volleyball and that will continue as we move forward.
   “The feedback has been great,” continued Finley. “People think that this has been a real positive thing. Getting the coaches wasn’t very hard. Now we are getting more volunteer coaches; they are coming forward and that is good for our kids.”
   With the fall sports drawing to an end in volleyball and football, Finley plans on having winter sports as well as spring and summer sports in the future.
   “It is a lot of work,” said Finley. “You have to have passion for what you do and most importantly you have to have good people. Good people produce good results. All of the people that we have hired are here when they say that they are going to be here, and that is what makes it a well-oiled machine.”
   “Our future plan is that the parents will take this over,” continued Finley. “This will be their community thing that they do. On their day, when they come to wherever the activities are that the parents will volunteer and run everything and we can just step back and put the schedule together.”
   Every team within the reservation will play each other in a round-robin format. The miles that every team travels every Saturday is appreciated by Finley. 
   “We want to show Twin Buttes our appreciation; they come over here every Saturday and it is a long drive to get here and it all goes back to the kids and that is giving them something to do,” said Finley. “The Parshall parents drive their kids here. They don’t have a bus. I want to thank the parents as well as the Tribal Business Council. Most importantly, I want to thank the kids that come out and play and don’t give up on what we are doing here.”
   “I think that it is crucial that their learning years in athletics are these real early years,” continued Finley. “The habits that they pick up here will be habits that probably stay with them for a long time. If there is anything about this league, there is nothing better than seeing kids have fun; It is special to them playing their hearts out for the people that came to watch.”
   With the innovation of Finley and parents who like to see their kids grow in the field of academics and athletics, there is no reason to believe that this program and future programs can’t prosper in a growing community.
   “The feedback has been great,” said Finley. “People think that this has been a real positive thing. Getting the coaches wasn’t very hard. Now we are getting more volunteer coaches; they are coming forward and that is good for our kids.”
Photos taken by LM Baker