Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena

Over the next several days, as the Washington’s small schools take to the Spokane Arena to compete in the WIAA Hardwood Classic state finals, we will all read the stories of success. We will all see the point totals and stat lines. Storylines will be drawn about standout athletes and teams.

Stories are already in the making about star athletes.

Two days ago, the Spokesman-Review reported on Brock Ravet, a Kittitas senior who has signed to play with the Gonzaga Bulldogs next year.

More local stories will reveal themselves.

Tribal Tribune reporter Shane Moses will be in attendance to cover Colville tribal athletes.

Today, Moses will cover the Inchelium girls against Sunnyside Christian at 9 a.m.

He will cover Colville tribal member Celisha Ralston and the Taholah girls against Selkirk at 10:30 a.m.

At 2 p.m., Moses will cover the Lake Roosevelt boys against Liberty (Spangle).

Every player stepping onto either of the two courts this weekend has put in countless hours and undeniable dedication to get their team to the Arena. The same is true for the coaches and often for the parents as well.

The dedication and hard work will be seen in each of the faces of both the victorious and the defeated: in the athletes, the coaches and the parents.

Immediately at the finish of the games, when Moses turns his camera to the stands or to the bench, the photographs will offer a glimpse into those stories that can’t be told with a simple stat line and quote.

In some cases, the parents might not be there - not every athlete has that story.

This week we received a call from Colville tribal elder Joan Sammaripa. She reminded us of the unique challenges that some of our local athletes face, and she told us a story that will be even harder to see at State B – that’s the story of the challenges that are hard for young people to talk about.

“A lot of people don’t even look at the little challenges facing our children, because they don’t even think of that. I struggled in the beginning,” said Sammaripa. “But today, I look at those kids and I worry about them. That story needs to be told for all of our people to witness, to understand that not everybody who lives in a household has everything.”

It’s about basketball, yes; it’s about community, yes; but it’s also about seeing the kids succeed in the face of unknown and often silent conflicts – poverty, young people having to plan their own meals, young people going hungry at night, depression, addiction, young people having to plan their own travel home after late practices, limited parental support.  The list continues and is as various as any of us can imagine.

For the Lake Roosevelt athletes, Sammaripa is one example of the community helping these kids through their individual challenges.

“I stay on top of it just for the kids out there that don’t have that worrying parent,” said Sammaripa. “Then I communicate with the parents. I know everybody here in Nespelem. When it comes to sports a lot of those parents come to me for help, because they’re even too embarrassed to try to figure out how to help their kids.”

Last year, Sammaripa helped nine different high school athletes raise close to $900 apiece through different fundraisers.

“I just wish one student would come forward [to tell that story]. A lot of them get embarrassed, and think, ‘I just want to forget it.’ Most kids, by the time they get to their senior year, I keep pushing them to go to college. There are Indian colleges that they can go to that they can excel in. A lot of people don’t talk to our Indian students about continuing on … That’s one of my biggest things: Keep them going so they get educated and move out of where they are at,” said Sammaripa.

Let’s all keep an understanding of those challenges in mind, and let’s not dwell in the glorification of tragedy. Tragedy does not define the tribal community. After all, though it's important to know the challenges exist, it is equally important to know those stories are the exception.

Let's all keep in mind all these athletes have achieved something incredible in getting to the Arena. Ultimately, the story is about finding an intangible skill that will help these young people through the rest of their lives. We can all find pride in that and in those stories, and we can all understand that when we tell these athletes good job, it might mean more than just that.

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