Local teens aim high in Hawaii
A group of Mid North teenagers are currently on a trip of a lifetime and participating at two youth basketball tournaments overseas.
The group of 18 tai tamariki and their two coaches left New Zealand on Tuesday to compete at both the Works Indigenous Youth and the Malakihikihi Age Group tournaments, which are being held in Hawaii over the next two weeks.
Even more remarkable is that all of the players who hail from the Kaikohe, Kerikeri and Hokianga areas have only been playing the game for a short time, courtesy of the Youth Development and Marae Holiday Programmes run by Papa Mel and Mama Del Rameka through their organisation, Mid North United Sports.
Mel said were the remarkable progression shown by all the players in the touring party was a credit to the phenomenal team at MNUS and had been made possible thanks to support from various other organisations including Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services.
“They see what we do as a awesome youth development tool. Our [Mel and Del’s] mission statement is, Whanau — Education — Future, which enables us to let them know that winning in life is by far more important than winning games and championships.
“This is a massive group of young people who always fill us with pride, who always inspire us,” he said, going no to cite the example of one young man in the squad — who at three stages in his life was a resident at three of the country’s youth justice facilities as well as being known as one of New Zealand’s highest youth offenders — as an example of the opportunities the pair’s organisation offered to the local community.
“He, like any other young person, was at risk of failing life but for the efforts of Del, MNUS, the love of an aunty and uncle, the support of his mentor, Hone Park, his wife, Victoria Mahuru, NISS, Liz Marsden, Peter Thomas and, of course, our kids, he now gets to travel the world, he gets to compete, and he gets to see and do things he would never have dreamt he’d be doing.”
Mel said he and Del strongly believed that all people are at risk of failure at certain stages in their lives, even when their situation is good in the home. Therefore it was important to give them a place where they can grow and develop — not just in sport but in life, eliminate fear, create a competitive spirit in sport, education and life, and develop the desire to always give their ultimate best effort aware that will always be enough.
Two weeks after their return in the new year, the group will be joined by three to four other players and will travel and compete at the national Maori basketball championships in Rotorua.
The group of young local basketball enthusiasts are in Hawaii representing the Kaikohe-based Mid North United Sports organisation in two international youth basketball tournaments.