Two hundred American Indian high school kids from five states and more than 20 tribes turned up at the Pentagon July 20—to play basketball.
The one-day basketball and life skills All-Nations Camp was organized by Sanford POWER Basketball Academy’s Basketball Coordinator Allan Bertram, who, along with other coaches of Native kids in the region, wanted to offer athletes entering grades 8 to 12 an experience they would never forget.
Bertram, who started out as a coach on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation 17 years ago, said the camp was the first of its kind in the nation. He says, “The biggest thing I took away from Rosebud was that basketball was the heartbeat of that community. The kids lived and breathed it; the community supported it 125 percent.”
The coaches thought they could use basketball to “provide the kids with a great experience that would not be just basketball related but also something where we could throw in some of the life skills and lifelong lessons that are often taught through athletics.” It could be the vehicle for talking to kids about some of the issues they face every day, such as diabetes and teen suicide.
Sanford Health proved to be just the partner the project needed. “Sanford Health put together presentations on proper diet and nutrition and brought in a college coach to speak to the kids about goal setting and how if they believe in something and they work hard towards it, then anything is possible,” says Bertram.
“They did a phenomenal job in bringing over people who came to talk to the kids about hydration and nutrition and put together handouts for the kids to take home with them,” says Bertram.
Under Armour sponsored the camp and supplied the T-shirts for all the participants. The kids’ coaches supplied the transportation from reservation and non-reservation schools as far away as North Dakota, Minnesota, Nevada and Wyoming, as well as South Dakota.
Sanford’s Pentagon is a 160,000-square-foot sports complex opened in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 2013. It is a premier facility with nine basketball courts, including NBA/college size court, home of the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Miami Heat’s D-League team.
Lyle LeBeau, Jr., girls’ basketball coach at Little Wound High School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in North Dakota, says this opportunity to play ball at the Pentagon was like a dream for many of the kids. The vast majority of them had never been to the Pentagon and it was an opportunity for them to be part of something they’d only heard about.
Bertram says he and the other coaches want the All-Native Basketball Camp to become an annual event, eventually drawing kids from all over the country. For more information on how to participate, contact Bertram at 605-312-7920 or firstname.lastname@example.org.