Sealaska Heritage and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska will offer free classes for anyone who is interested in becoming a Native Youth Olympics coach. The organizations are based in Juneau, but anyone with internet access can sign up because, for the second year in a row, the training is virtual.
Juneau resident Kyle Worl has been coaching NYO for four years. He said the games are based on hunting and survival skills that allowed the Inupiaq people to live in Arctic conditions, like the One-Foot High Kick.
“[That] is a high jump where you kick a suspended seal skin ball target,” Worl said. “It was used long ago, not only as a game but also as a form of communication across the Tundra. So a high kick could signal a successful or unsuccessful hunt.”
There’s also a Seal Hop which is based on a technique used to sneak up on seals laying out on the ice. Alaska isn’t the only place where the games are played either. Worl said they reach as far as Canada, Greenland and Russia.
“But in other places they’ll refer to it as Inuit Games or Arctic Sports,” he said. “So they’re games that draw origins really from across the Arctic.”
More than 100 different Alaskan communities participate in the games. Worl said by offering virtual coach training, he hopes to bring it to more places. So far, people have registered for it from six different time zones across North America.
The training is available in two parts on Monday and Tuesday or as a single session on Saturday, Oct. 16. Worl said he’s found coaching to be very rewarding.
“You’re providing support for youth and a healthy outlet for them,” Worl said. “It also keeps me involved with my community, keeps me healthy. We encourage anyone who may be interested to join us.”
The next event scheduled for Juneau is the 2022 Traditional Games. Those will take place April 2-3, 2022 at Thunder Mountain High School.