The North American Native Sisters master’s softball team wrote history recently when they competed in the World Masters Games played in Torino, Italy as the first All-Native team to compete at these World Games.
The 45 and over team was pulled together from both Six Nations/New Credit and women players from British Columbia.
After winning the first game in their category against the BC Totems from British Columbia, they had their hopes set high, but as the games went on, the hurdles set before them became a stumbling block.
The most obvious issue was a matter of camaraderie. Although the women from the East all knew each other and have played with or against each other most of the team their lives and all got along, when the BC women came into the picture, without any practice time or social time together at all, they just could not gel quickly enough into a cohesive team.
“Most of the other teams had been playing together as teams for years before going to Italy,” said Sally Henhawk of the Sisters. “We had never even met half of our team before we arrived.” Looking back at it, this was a mistake.
“I think if we put together a team for the next World Games in New Zealand four years from now, it will be made up of all women from one place or the other,” said team organizer Clair Heath. “Blending them without practice or even knowing each other just did not work.”
There were other frustrations to deal with as well, including the language barrier. “The Italian game
officials told us that we would be playing by International Rules, but when we looked at them, we realized that in fact they were not international rules as we understand them,” said Claire Heath, who organized the team.
After much frustration in trying to communicate with the officials, the Sisters finally made their point and the games were played under the international rules that not only the Sisters, but the other Canadian teams in the games understood.
Another frustration came when the umpire they brought with them, as required by event organizers, was overlooked in the schedule and never got to ump in one game. But that did not dampen the experience of being in Italy, many for the first time. “We went to Monaco on a day off,” recalls Henhawk. “It was great. We went to this big beautiful Basilica way up on a mountain that took 20 minutes to get to by trolley. That was the highlight of the trip for me.”
There was a lot of serious shopping that took place between games as well. “I had to buy two more suit cases to come home with,” Henhawk said with a laugh. The ladies got back into Toronto at around 6 pm on August 12, when they were picked up at the airport by a bus provided by GRE, one of the team’s major sponsors. “We really want to thank GRE and the Dreamcatcher Fund for making this trip possible,” said Henhawk.
By Jim Windle