Growing up in Yakutat, a Southeast Alaska village of just over 600 people, basketball was everything for Sharnel Vale.
The sport kept locals active, created camaraderie, and unified the town.
“Basketball is the lifeblood of rural communities,” Vale said. “Half my time growing up was spent in the gym playing or practicing.”
Her love of the sport and her desire to build community inspired her to start an intramural basketball league to bridge her two “teams” in Anchorage: Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, where she works as a Program Administrator for the Rural Energy Initiative in the Environmental Health and Engineering Department and Alaska Pacific University, where she’s a student studying Counseling Psychology.
“I think having this program will create more bonds between the two organizations in the strategic partnership,” Vale said. “We’ll start to see each other as teammates because we have this team-building thing in common.”
The intramural program will run Thursday nights from October 19 until November 16. The goal is to have two APU teams consisting of students, faculty, and staff, as well as a team from ANTHC and a team from ANSEP.
“My hope is that the league takes off and builds those relationships that’ll make the various organizations a little closer,” Vale said. “If this pilot program goes well, then we can open the league up to even more teams in the spring, too.”
Like the other leagues in town, the APU/ANTHC league will play two 20-minute halves with a running clock. It will also have standard co-ed league rules, like a man can’t block a women and baskets made by women count as three points instead of two.
Vale, who will be playing for ANTHC this first run, said she’s heard a lot of excited chatter about the new program.
“Coming from a rural village myself, basketball was so important,” Vale said. “It’s nice to have that piece of home and do these intramural games. I think it’s one more thing that is going to attract potential students to APU and will make them want to stay here.”