Basketball is undeniably enjoyed by many Māori youth and it shows with the increase of numbers at the second National Māori Basketball Tournament.
Rotorua Basketball president, Rangitihi Pene says, “This tournament is a pathway for those to turn to their tribes and canoes. The majority of the time, they usually represent the towns and regions. This is the only tournament where we can show off.”
Māori heritage is a key criteria of the tournament. This year, one of the local Rotorua U15 girls' team was declined because their coach wasn't Māori.
Mr Pene says, “What he wanted was to come on his own with his one team and enter this event. I responded against that because Te Arawa is here and said you need to come under our umbrella and follow the criteria.”
Basketball teacher, Andrew McKay did not give up on the denied team and sent another form to the organisers to register the U15 girls' team. This time representing Ngāti Whakaue under the guidance of Richard Wharerahi but that too was declined.
Mr McKay says, “It should have been sorted, he met the criteria, he should have been allowed to experience coaching himself and the players should have been able to still play as a unit. They would have been happy to play under Te Arawa, but they still wanted to play as a group.”
The girls were told they could trial for the Te Arawa team instead, which they didn't agree with. Rangitihi says the National Māori Basketball Association is focussed on incorporating the uniqueness of being Māori into their tournament.
The tournament caters to all grades as well as our special Olympian and Māori wheelchair basketball athletes.
While it wasn't all smooth sailing at the tournament this year, the benefits were clear to see.