Healthy Living in the North

2014 All Native Basketball Tournament: More than a sporting event

Basketball painted with First Nations art

The 2015 All Native Basketball Tournament runs from Feb. 8-14 in Prince Rupert. In addition to the high-performance sport, the tournament is a place for connection, community, health, and culture to come together.

Unity, pride, and community: these are the off-court principles that push the All Native Basketball Tournament to its inarguable success. Held in Prince Rupert every February, 2014’s event drew thousands of spectators and 56 basketball teams from aboriginal communities across the north. Being held for over 50 years, it has the honour of being the longest-held sports event in B.C.

It is a destination and focus for northern communities, as the prestige associated with the tournament encourages healthy choices by team members, their families and supporters in the run-up to the games themselves. For many communities, the annual trip to the tournament is an important social and cultural event as they can gather with friends and families from other remote communities. The sport and cultural atmosphere is a powerful connection and place of belonging for the communities and Nations who attend.

Northern Health tobacco reduction sign that reads: "Basketball Yes, Tobacco No"

Northern Health has been involved in the All Native Basketball Tournament since 2006. If you are at the tournament this year, stop by and say hello!

Northern Health is proud to be part of the event since 2006, which started with one lone table on tobacco reduction. Since then, Northern Health’s presence has grown alongside of the tournament. In the past, we have offered a more clinical service through the offering of health screenings. In 2014, we sponsored and hosted a quiet space furnished with cozy furniture and low lighting. This space offered a retreat where Elders could rest in comfort, nursing moms could feed their babies in peace, and traditional stories were shared. Health screenings were still offered, but the focus was on the gathering and comforting space, rather than the clinical space. The space was reflective of supporting a complete healthy community; a way of integrating social and cultural gathering with health services. While the tournament is an important contributor to the health and well-being of northern First Nations, in 2014, for the first time, people spoke of the tournament as a place where, sport, culture and health comes together.


This article was co-authored by Theresa Healy and Doreen Bond and originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of A Healthier You.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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Make it a tobacco-free season!

Picture of a hockey rink. Bleachers and skating aids on the right side.

Is your local arena tobacco-free? Whether you are a parent, player, coach, spectator, or volunteer, you can help to keep tobacco out of sports!

January 18th to 24th is National Non-Smoking Week and if you use tobacco, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. But wouldn’t it be great if nobody, especially kids, ever started smoking or using any kind of tobacco? While there’s plenty of information available about the harmful effects of tobacco use, there are also influences in society that send the opposite message. It’s no secret that some sports have been associated with tobacco use.

As part of its health promotions, Northern Health is working with sports organizations across the north to promote tobacco-free sports.

Tobacco-free sport represents the idea that everyone taking part in sports and recreational activities does not use any kind of tobacco product during the activity. Tobacco-free sport involves developing, implementing and enforcing policies within sports and recreation organizations that address all types of tobacco use. It sends the message that sports and tobacco don’t belong on the same playing field.

Everyone can be part of the big picture by encouraging their local sports and recreation organizations to develop, promote and enforce tobacco-free sports policies. However, if you’re more involved in a sports organization, there are a few other things you can do as well:

  1. If you’re a parent whose child is active in sports, talk to your children about tobacco. Be involved in the game and help out. Make sure you know what’s going on with your children.
  2. Coaches have a big influence on the players they work with. If you’re a coach, use your influence to support tobacco-free sports.
  3. If you’re a player, don’t use any form of tobacco. Whether you play for fun or in a highly competitive elite league, somebody is probably looking up to you. Set an example for them.

In addition to promoting a healthy lifestyle, tobacco-free sports can also:

  • Protect everyone at the game from second- and third-hand smoke.
  • Help keep our recreation venues and environment free from toxic cigarette butt litter.
  • Prevent youth from starting to use tobacco products.
  • Give everyone a chance to perform at their best.
  • Help tobacco users quit by offering sports environments free of triggers that might lead to cravings for a cigarette.

Tobacco-free policies are a great way to send the message that sport and tobacco don’t mix, but they also need to be promoted and adhered to by everybody to be effective. That means nobody uses tobacco while playing, coaching, or watching.

Let’s work together to make National Non-Smoking Week last the entire season!

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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It’s not about the smoke

Young child holding a hockey stick and wearing a hockey helmet.

Tobacco use is a significant problem on hockey teams. As a parent, coach, or adult player, there are things you can do to prevent or stop tobacco use in sports.

It’s that time of year again. Hockey fans are busy digging out hockey gear, getting skates sharpened and taping sticks – getting ready for the first puck drop of the season.

Unfortunately, hockey has a dark secret – one that’s more commonly associated with Major League Baseball. It’s a problem you can neither see, usually, nor smell. Organized hockey has a tobacco problem that has made its way into the sport — from children as young as 13 to NHL professionals. The problem is the use of chewing tobacco or snus.

The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba recently surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12-21 regarding substance use. The survey found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By the age of twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported that they had tried “chew.”

They also found that youth in grades 9-12 who participated in team sports had nearly double the risk of trying smokeless tobacco.

Another study by the Waterloo Sports Medicine Centre and University of Waterloo in 2010 found that smokeless tobacco use among Canadian hockey players appears to be common, with results comparable to similar studies in the U.S.

We’re all aware of the dangers associated with the use of smoking. However, I’d be willing to bet a bag of pucks that not many of us are aware of how many hockey players use smokeless tobacco. For hockey parents, this can be particularly troubling as the sport that they put their child in to keep them active and healthy could potentially lead to tobacco use.

But there are some things you can do about it:

  • If you’re a hockey parent, make sure that you talk to your children about tobacco. Be involved in the game and help out. Don’t just drop your child off in the dressing room and then head for the bleachers. Make sure you know what’s going on.
  • Coaches have a big influence on the players they work with. If you’re a coach, use that influence to send the message that tobacco and hockey don’t belong in the same arena.
  • If you’re a player, don’t use any form of tobacco. Whether you play in a fun recreational league or a highly competitive elite league, some young hockey player is probably looking up to you. To your children, you are the best player on the ice. Set the example for them.

Hockey organizations and municipalities can also develop, promote, and enforce tobacco-free policies that address tobacco use. Tobacco-free policies send the message that hockey and tobacco don’t mix, but to be effective, they also need to be promoted and adhered to. That means everyone from the fans in the arena bleachers to the players on the dressing room bench has to be in the game.

Hockey is a great sport with a lot of benefits for those who play; we just need to work together to bench tobacco.

If you want more information on tobacco-free sports, visit Play, Live, Be Tobacco-Free.

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling, information, and support as well as free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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