By Lyonel Doherty
Basketball players Ashley McGinnis and Jade Montgomery-Waardenburg are inspiring local youth to lead healthier, active lives on and off the court.
The young women are running a basketball clinic sponsored by ISPARC (Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council), an organization that promotes the health and well-being of Indigenous people.
Clinics were held at local schools including Senpaq’cin.
“We just work on our fundamentals and just try to make it fun for kids,” said Jade.
Ashley said she likes the fact it’s not specifically about basketball, but also about promoting an active lifestyle in young children.
She noted that ISPARC helped her out when she assisted in coaching in the North American Indigenous Games for U14 in 2017, and she is doing that again in Halifax this year.
“They really give us opportunities to become coaches and be those healthy role models in our communities.”
Ashley finished high school in Oliver and was recruited by the University of Victoria and played basketball there for three years. Unfortunately, an injury sidelined her and she took a year off. But she soon got back on the court playing for Camosun College, where her team (Chargers) won silver and bronze medals at the PACWEST championships.
Jade played provincial basketball in high school and later post-secondary ball at Thompson Rivers University. This was followed by a stint on the US court with Northwest Indian College.
“A different ball game down there for sure,” she commented.
She too played for the Camosun Chargers.
“Unfortunately, I rolled my ankle really bad in our first game and I was out for the year basically.”
Jade said she thoroughly enjoys coaching and still plays for a club team called The Starbirds, competing in the all-Indigenous basketball tournament in Prince Rupert.
For Jade, a huge part of her ISPARC involvement is giving back to the community.
She noted how fortunate she was to have good coaches and good support from the basketball community to help her through a lot of hard times when she was young.
“So, I don’t see this as a game, I see it as medicine for me and to share that medicine with kids. Even just to get them interested in any kind of sport and to show them that it can take you places.”
Jade is pursuing an early childhood education certificate at En’owkin Centre in Penticton. Her goal is to bring that knowledge back to her community (Lower Similkameen) in Keremeos and work in daycare.
Ashley graduated with a gender studies degree from the University of Victoria with a minor in Indigenous studies. She also obtained an Indigenous family support certificate to work with children and families, and is currently employed at the Osoyoos Indian Band health and resource centre as a program assistant.