For the members of Cowessess First Nation, fastball is more than just a sport. It is a lifestyle that brings the community together.
Lianda Tanner, one of the team’s infielders started playing when she was in high school and has been playing ever since.
”We are proud to represent our First Nation and because we have a history and because we have been champions over the years we just want to continue that dynasty,” she said.
Tanner believes having a community that is immersed in a sport represents a positive, healthy lifestyle and brings the community together.
Brooklyn Lavallee, a Cowessess high school student, has been playing fastball for the last three years as a pitcher, catcher, and short-stop.
Lavallee believes the team is about more than just being involved in a sport, it’s about learning from one another to make yourself a better player and person.
“I want to be on more teams,” she said when asked about goals and aspirations for the future. ”This year I was on an international team (Southey Eagles) and then we got first in that tournament. I want to be on one of those teams again.”
Lavallee is unsure what she would like to study but hopes to one day get a university scholarship for her athletic ability.
Jason Bobb, Cowessess’ recreation coordinator, has been involved with sports all his life.
”It kind of kept me out of trouble, “said Bobb. “So it lead to a path to other options I was always interested in working with youth so this was a good opportunity to try something different. I have a justice background…so I’ve seen some struggles, some barriers, with our aboriginal youth. The opportunity came up… and I thought it was a good opportunity to try it out.”
The team matters more than sports because”it builds community pride,” Bobb said. ”It instills everyone to be proud of their team, self-confidence, (and) builds up role models for our younger generation
”We don’t be specific to any gender and welcome anyone who comes out. A prime example is our women this year.. won the Treaty 4 fastball tournament. They have been winning their tournaments for many years now and are good role models and help build up our younger girls.”
Bobb believes the fastball diamonds were not being utilized enough before he came on. To change this he took multiple maintenance courses to not only get them in better shape but to give the kids a chance to learn the game again.
”Sports brings out the best in the community; especially the youth,” he said. ”The best I can do is provide opportunities for our youth…new opportunities, existing (opportunities)…and how I can enhance those. It also instills self-confidence and pride people have in the community playing for their own reserve. ”
Barry Sparvier who coaches some of the boys teams has never known a life that didn’t revolve around the sport. His enjoyment of fastball started from childhood while watching his father play.
”There’s always a call for coaches…,” Sparvier said. ”I thought; I’m single and I have nothing to do now. I said, ok. I’ll start coaching; and I got more into it.”
“I remember in the spring when we first started to play, some of these guys couldn’t even throw a ball four feet or six feet accurately, ” Spariver recalls. ”But when we got to the FSIN tournament in Saskatoon, out of 15 teams (we) came in fourth and I think that was good because maybe half or more of these guys, this was their first year.“
“The most satisfying thing Is teaching these kids how to play ball and seeing them improving almost week by week.”
Sparvier explained that up until 1993 when Cowessess hosted the First Nations Summer Games there was only one diamond on the reserve. With the money raised they built more. He believes this contributes to the overall wellness of the community.
Although Sparvier would like to see Cowessess have a senior fastball team he is happy that the younger generation has a team to “help keep them out of trouble and to see a better way of life. Even if you don’t have anything you can always go outside and throw the ball around or hit the ball around. I just want to see better for our younger people that are growing up.”