POLACCA, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks Athletics Department may be located in Flagstaff, but every time NAU takes the field or steps out into the community, it strives to represent the greater northern Arizona area. To do that, the Lumberjacks need to reach out and make connections. On Thursday, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lisa Campos led several members of the NAU coaching family to the Hopi Reservation and conducted a clinic for nearly 300 elementary school children from First Mesa Elementary School and Hopi Day School.
The Hopi Reservation, located in Polacca, Ariz. roughly 200 miles from Flagstaff, is home to a couple thousand youth and is deeply rooted with culture. With the reservation a few hours away from surrounding cities, isolation and the Hopi Tribe's strong culture often keeps the youth within the confines of their home. Although the reservation's children have been presented with opportunities in the past, their decisions to take part of cultural activities are often a self-regulation to decline.
"One of the things that we wanted today was to get the children thinking about higher education and life beyond the reservation, beyond the boundaries so to speak," said Aaron Secakuku of the Native Americans for Community Action Inc., Pathways Youth Program. "By doing something like this, it'll spark the interest of a child to start looking at careers so they can go and better themselves. Trying to empower them and give them the light at the end of the tunnel is important."
Secakuku, who is from the Village of Bacavi on the Hopi Reservation, partnered with Associate Head Track & Field coach Oscar Duncan to make today's clinic a reality. With the help of Head Men's Basketball coach Jack Murphy, Head Women's Basketball coach Sue Darling and Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins as well as a few members of their respective coaching staffs, NAU Athletics was able to make a difference in the lives of the children in attendance at the clinic held at First Mesa Elementary School.
The two basketball staffs taught all facets of the game through drills including dribbling, rebounding, passing, lay-ups and defense while Heins and Duncan worked through proper running fundamentals and technique. The coaches also taught the importance of teamwork.
"For us, it's not only about athletics but the greater mission of the university to educate the state of Arizona and expose kids to higher education," Campos said. "That was our goal today. It's so important for NAU and the athletic department to continue introducing students to the university, to sports and extra-curricular activities. Hopefully one day, some of these students will become Lumberjacks."
Quotes from the Coaches:
"It was very important that we were able to come out to the Hopi Reservation today with the contingent of coaches from NAU Athletics. The people that live here on the reservation are citizens and natives to this land of northern Arizona and we try to represent this area with great pride through our teams and our student-athletes. It's great to give back and look in the eyes of the young boys and girls that we play for. Every time we go out, we represent this part of our great state and personally it was very rewarding because I have young daughters and a young son myself. To be able to come out here and share our love for basketball, our love for athletics with people of the Hopi Reservation was absolutely fantastic."
- Jack Murphy, Head Men's Basketball Coach
"This year it's especially important that we connect with our neighbors. We like to get around to the schools in Flagstaff, but to get out into all of northern Arizona is really important for the people that we go out to visit and for us. It was very rewarding to be a part of this today. The kids are awesome and they have unbelievable spirit and enthusiasm. It was a great day by all."
- Sue Darling, Head Women's Basketball Coach
"For me personally, running is a great tradition out here and it needs to be kept alive. It goes back to Louis Tewanima as a Hopi Olympian back in the 1900s, Milfred Tewawina was an NAU All-American, Juwan Nuvayokva was an NAU All-American from Hopi. To come back out here and spark that interest and see the enthusiasm – there are second and third graders in cross country – was super exciting. Hopefully they can take away that they have these role models to look up to. They may not know who they are right now, but the more we can get out here and educate them the better."
- Eric Heins, Director of Track & Field and Cross Country