Stephanie Parkes says it’s an honour to be named Sport North’s 2022 Coach of the Year, but the real reward was seeing the impact she’s had on the athletes she’s coached.

“I was pretty surprised initially,” said the basketball coach. “It’s nice to be recognized, for sure. The boys that I’ve been coaching for years, they all filled out their own personal thoughts and I got to read those.

“That meant more than the award. That’s when you know you’re actually making a difference in people’s lives. It was nice to hear from them in their words what the last four to five years have meant to them.”

Parkes was nominated by her athletes and peers for the recognition earlier in the year and was informed she was the winner in September. But the public announcement didn’t come until Dec. 2.

“The day that I found out, I came down for practice after school and they were all standing in the gym cheering,” she said. “It was pretty sweet.”

She was particularly moved by how her athletes described her as a trusted adult that they could reach out to about anything, not just basketball.

Having not played hoops herself as a child, Parkes’ journey to becoming the North’s top coach has been a journey of passion. She fell into the sport 14 to 15 years ago, first as a chaperone for a tournament in Yellowknife.

Since then she’s learned the intricacies of sport. In the process, she’s also built a solid support network and basketball program by bringing in help where needed.

“It’s been a project we’ve all worked at,” she said. “Growing up, basketball was my least favourite sport, but I stepped into the role and (have been) able to see kids outside of school and build those relationships and connections. I’ve learned the influence you can have when kids know you are on their side, rooting for them and being their cheerleader.

“You can actually have a lot of positive influence helping students with their studies. This group has been super committed.”

Having worked with the same group of students for the better part of the past decade, Parkes said this last year before graduation was about getting as much time on the court as possible before sending her boys off into the world.

Through the sport, she hopes she helped pass on important life lessons and experience to the young men. From the testaments they wrote in their nomination for her award, she said she feels she’s accomplished that.

“I’ve used basketball as a means to engage kids in school and keep them around,” she said. “It’s about the end game. Basketball is a means to an end for me — it’s how I get these boys to develop leadership skills and help them with the rest of their life.

“It’s not actually about the basketball. It’s what I’ve been able to do through basketball.”

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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