Students at Mangilaluk School in Tuktoyaktuk missed out on an East Three School volleyball tournament earlier this year because the cost of flights would have been over $8,000.
“This time we have the road, so we could charter a bus for a fraction of the price,” said teacher Louis Cormier, who brought eight students to a badminton tournament at the school last weekend, thanks to the new Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway.
“Now it’s affordable. Eight thousand (dollars) for a community of less than 1,000 people is not feasible.”
The ice road in years past would not have been ready yet, so the highway now provides year-round car travel between the communities.
Students from Mangilaluk School had a few prerequisites before they could attend, including at least an 80 per cent attendance rate, passing their grades and participating in practices.
“Sports is a very important part of a school program,” said Cormier, adding that being part of a team motivates youth to attend school.
“A lot of the kids who are on teams are only at school because of their teams. It not only gives you a good, healthy lifestyle, but it motivates the kids, who have a chance to excel at something other than academics.”
He doesn’t mind sleeping on an air mattress at East Three School overnight if it gives the students a chance to play.
“We make sure the kids have a chance to participate in sports,” said Cormier.
East Three Secondary School gym teacher Colin Pybus echoes the importance of youth sport involvement.
“If you want to be on sports teams, you need to be coming to school,” said Pybus. “Sometimes that’s the motivation for kids. The energy, release and everything that comes with being active is scientifically proven to increase academics and help students function better in the classroom.”
He said it gives students something to look forward to at school, a chance to travel and participate in tournaments.
“Things like that are all rewards for kids coming to school, being in their classrooms and doing what they’re supposed to be doing as students,” said Pybus.
Like Cormier, Pybus doesn’t mind making some sacrifices to see youth get these opportunities. He volunteers his time to run tournaments like last weekend’s badminton one, which saw more than 50 players from four communities. Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Paulatuk and Fort McPherson were all represented at the event.
“We always love it when any of the communities come to our tournaments,” said Pybus.
“We don’t put them on just for Inuvik. We put them on for the entire Delta, so we’re always welcoming anybody to come.”
This weekend, Pybus is chaperoning seven high school students taking part in a territorial badminton tournament in Yellowknife.
Any youth interested in trying out for badminton in the Arctic Winter Games must contact Pybus before Dec. 15.