A Norman Wells teenager was on his way to Yellowknife airport to catch a flight home from training camp in Edmonton when he learned he had been officially named to the team’s men’s soccer team NT.
“I screamed, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “The car stopped, everyone said ‘are you okay?'”
Shamar Bennett told the teammates taking him away that yes he was fine, then called his mother to tell her he would go to the Canada Summer Games in Ontario in just a few weeks.
“I couldn’t help but smile. It’s such a great moment for me, to make Norman Wells and Jamaica proud,” said the 18-year-old.
Bennett, who grew up in Jamaica and moved to Norman Wells three years ago, lobbied the community for financial support to travel to Yellowknife for the team’s initial selection camp last June. There he was chosen to continue training, but the squad that will travel to the Canada Summer Games was not finalized until last Friday.
That meant Bennett had to keep raising money to cover Norman Wells’ travel expenses to Yellowknife and even Edmonton for training opportunities over the past year, while wondering if he would make the roster. official.
“It’s kind of, you know, excitement for athletes because they don’t know, they have to work diligently… all the time.” said Rita Mercredi, Sport North’s chef de mission (or team leader) for this year’s Games, noting that it is up to individual territorial sports organizations to select their teams.
Women’s soccer team withdraws
The Canada Summer Games are taking place in Niagara, Ontario from August 6-21.
Wednesday said the Northwest Territories will send 111 people to the Games this year, a figure that includes athletes, coaches, managers and mission staff. Twenty participants are from the communities, she said. Athletes will compete in track and field, women’s basketball, men’s basketball, swimming, tennis, women’s indoor volleyball and men’s beach volleyball.
The women’s soccer team, Wednesday said, decided to pull out because they weren’t ready to compete in the Games.
Jackie Whelly, a soccer coach in Fort Simpson, had trained six players in her community for the Games — five candidates and one candidate. She spoke to CBC North earlier this year about the challenges of being a athlete in a small community.
Wednesday said it was a shame the team pulled out, but that was a decision left to the team and the Northwest Territories Soccer Association, also known as NWT Soccer.
“We want every athlete to have the opportunity to compete at the Games, but at the same time, we want it to be a meaningful competition too…for them as well as their opponents,” Wednesday said.
Practicing alone in Norman Wells
Keisha Campbell, Bennett’s mother, had previously priced a three- or four-day trip to Yellowknife for her son and an attendant at $2,500. Bennett said he is grateful to his community for an outpouring of support that has helped him get to various training camps over the past year.
Going forward, he said he would like to see sporting opportunities arise in NWT communities so young people can try new things and be chosen for teams like him. But right now he’s focused on staying active and maintaining his skills – a tough task for the only football player in a community of around 700 people.
“No one really likes to play football with me here, they say I’m too passionate. That’s a nice word for it,” he laughed.
Instead, he makes do with what he has – a patch of grass next to the arena, a soccer ball, and a small soccer net.
“I throw the ball in the air, I try to touch, I shoot at the goal behind me or I dribble with stones on the ground,” he explained.
Bennett said he also plays softball and basketball and tries to run to stay in shape.
He also finds himself checking the list with his name every day.
“I’m just shocked to know that a Jamaican kid is on Team NT and competing in this big tournament to represent this small community,” he said. “It’s so crazy.”