Indigenous athletes overcome heartbreak and pursue volleyball dreams
Thundersky Walkingbear and Shawn Netmaker passion for volleyball have brought them hundreds of kilometres from home to play the sport they love in Saskatoon.
“People just don’t train and focus as hard as people out here do in the city,” Walkingbear, who is also known as T-Sky, said.
When Netmaker moved from Thunderchild First Nation in west-central Saskatchewan to live with Walkingbear, it was for a much different reason.
“I moved because I lost a parent, and then they took me into their care,” Netmaker said.
“[My mother] was having a bad night, and she was kind of on alcohol. And then, she was texting my auntie, and then there was no one home at my house and she went downstairs and I don’t know how she did it, she found a rope, and then she just hung herself.”
A devastated Netmaker retreated from people around him, but his “brother” was there to help.
“I always found Shawn like my little brother. So when I heard that, I was just like ‘Whoa, damn,’ and I stepped up even more,” Walkingbear said.
“T-Sky just kept trying to pick me up. Telling me a lot of stuff, and then I just believed him, and T-Sky was just there for me every time,” Netmaker said.
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The two overcame the heartbreak together and volleyball helped Netmaker push through the grief.
“Being more open, seeing all my friends, being loud and all that kind of stuff. Coming to school, going to practice,” Netmaker said.
He worked at his craft and beat out hundreds of athletes to represent Saskatchewan at the upcoming North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto.
The two members have also learned some valuable life lessons through the sport.
“When you mess up a pass, you can’t just really focus on that,” Walkingbear said.
“You can easily come back harder, swing harder, block harder, pass smarter, hit smarter, even if you make a mistake, there’s always all of us. A team that comes together and then we always help each other. It’s never one man.”
The two Team Saskatchewan volleyball players now have the opportunity to show Canada their brotherly bond and talent on the court at NAIG.
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