The Okanagan Coyotes college basketball teams are ready to challenge the well-known sports axiom that winning isn’t the only thing, it is everything.
The Coyotes men’s and women’s basketball teams representing Okanagan College have signed on their support for the Values Over Victory Campaign launched by the Kelowna digital media company Mazu.
“There needs to be a re-calibration for all of us, and these athletes are helping lead the charge, to remind us all the most important thing we have is our values. Victory comes after that,” said Janice Taylor, founder and chief executive officer of Mazu, an app geared to providing a safe haven for children to learn in a toxic social media environment that can be toxic for our youth.
“You lead with character and standing up for certain values. That makes all types of victory possible in our lives. When winning is the most important thing in our culture, than all bets are off.”
Mazu has created a partnership with the fledgling Okanagan Coyotes basketball program, where each player has related their own personal life journey online and will continue to share daily photos and posts with the social media site.
Dino Gini, coach of both the Okanagan men’s and women’s basketball teams, said by embracing the Values Over Victory concept, his players are building a legacy upon for players who come after them to strive to attain, to set a positive example for younger school athletes with dreams of playing their sport at a post-secondary level.
“We want to build a basketball culture for Okanagan College and we want to reach out to the community and set a value standard for others to follow,” Gini said.
This year, the Coyotes will mark their return to the PACWEST Conference, playing league games against other college teams from Douglas College, Capilano College, Langara College, Camosun College, Vancouver Island University and Columbia Bible College.
It’s a big step in the ground-up rebuilding process of the Okanagan College that Gini undertook two years ago. The long-term hope is for a permanent gym on the OC campus in Kelowna and the supportive funding that facility would generate in the college’s annual operating budget.
While OC has given in-kind support of staff and resources to assist Gini in his efforts, the team plays its home games at Immaculata High School in Kelowna, practices at the Okanagan Christian School and faces the challenge of raising $130,000 annually from community sponsorship support to exist.
“We are in a little different situation than the other teams in the PACWEST Conference in terms of the challenges we face right now,” Gini noted.
The kick-off party for the Values Over Victory campaign was held Wednesday night at the Kanata Hotel and Conference Centre.
Coyotes men’s team player Jacob Dumas spoke at the event, which was also attended by the Kelowna Chiefs junior hockey team, talking about how he’s come to learn the power of the mind supersedes any athletic ability, is what keeps you moving forward and opens the door to making positive life decisions.
“It is through our mind that we learn how to continue, to persevere, to take that next step moving forward. We need to guard our minds and value our minds more than we value the Internet. We connect with the Internet and connect to the concept of the Internet, but we also have to guard our minds and our values more than we value the Internet,” he said.
Also stepping up to the microphone to speak was Ciara Bamford, a member of the Coyotes women’s team. She recounted her life story, the difficult upbringing she faced amidst poverty and family strife she endured living in Princeton and then Calgary, before moving back to Princeton to be raised by her grandparents at age 11.
Sports was an outlet for her in Princeton, playing soccer and basketball, giving herself a goal in Grade 9 to play university hoops. She went on in school thinking thinking about a career in psychology, then switching to physiotherapy, her idea being a desire to do something where she could work with kids to improve their lives.
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“At that point in my life, I felt I was on a good path, then my grandpa passed away, and that moment changed me forever,” Bamford recalled.
“He was my father figure and he meant the world to me and still does to this day. But after he died I dropped out of school for a year to help my grandma on their farm, to grieve with her over our loss. I never thought I would play basketball again.”
But she overcame that emotional adversity to return to school at Okanagan College two years later and embraced the unexpected opportunity to play competitive basketball again, something she thought had passed her by at the age of 23.
“I always wanted to share my story and be part of something bigger. Up to now I didn’t have the opportunity or have a chance at giving back. I thought this (Values Over Victory campaign ) was a chance for me to step into something bigger not just for myself but to help inspire and motivate others.”
Moving forward, the Okanagan Coyotes hope to raise their community profile and generate attendance and sponsorship support, do their part to reinforce a positive role model message for youngsters under the age of 13 through their partnership with Mazu and to express their message of value and character to local groups and school classrooms.
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