When play strikes out, resilience steps up

When play strikes out, resilience steps up


My NAIG experience set in motion a chain of opportunities

By Hunter Lang for CBC Sports
December 6, 2020
 

You think young people are less affected by COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting everyone in the world. It has definitely changed my habits and overall lifestyle. I have new day-to-day sanitizing routines, mask-use habits, and general health-consciousness. The lockdowns have laid waste to my sports and athletics. Prior to the spread of COVID-19, I was an avid and competitive multisport athlete.

I was set to compete in this past summer’s 2020 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Halifax. As a result of the pandemic, the Games were postponed until the summer of 2021. Now those games have been cancelled too. The disappointment of hearing, for a second time, that I would not be able to return to competition in the Games brought me back down to earth with a crash.  So long to the sweet afterglow of our U16 B.C. softball team bronze at NAIG Toronto.

Hunter Lang lays down a bunt in practise. (Photo by Mario Bartel/THE TRI-CITY NEWS) Hunter Lang lays down a bunt in practise. (Photo by Mario Bartel/THE TRI-CITY NEWS)
 

2017 NAIG was my first experience of competing on such a large scale. Representing my province was one of the most memorable experiences of my youth.  NAIG created fantastic leadership opportunities and greatly influenced my long-term plans. NAIG ignited my passion to reclaim my Indigenous identity, fueled my advocacy for truth and reconciliation initiatives, and encouraged me to learn more about my cultural and ancestral history.

Lang at a Team BC unite event, post-2017 NAIG. Lang at a Team BC unite event, post-2017 NAIG.

My family comes from the Ts̓k̓wáylaxw First Nation (Pavilion Band), but I was born and raised in Port Moody, B.C., and have never lived on reserve. Prior to NAIG I was rarely involved in any cultural activities or community groups, and I had only a couple of Indigenous friends. It’s not that I didn’t want to be more in touch with my indigeneity, I just didn’t know what I was missing.

I grew up with Chinese and Canadian customs. NAIG provided a unique window for me to get to know my fellow Indigenous youth, who have experienced completely different upbringings from my own. It was inspiring to see young Indigenous people from all over North America, gathered and united by sports.

It felt like I was a part of something greater. I am proud to be part of such a strong and resilient community.

 

This year I faced a choice. Whether or not to play out my U19 season on my local Coquitlam Rep softball team, with the COVID-19 restrictions strictly in place.

Return-to-play guidelines ensured as much safety as possible, but sadly, the decision was still obvious to me. I could not participate this year. It meant almost all of my social opportunities with teammates and friends were taken away, but ultimately, I did not want to put my family and grandparents at risk.  It was a small but difficult sacrifice to make for the health and well-being of my family.

 

I’ve felt lonely a few times during these past few months, but I’m lucky to have a caring support system. My family helped me adjust. I went from living as an independent university student, to transitioning back home, as COVID-19 moved courses online.

 

For the majority of my teenage years, I dreamt of ‘making it big’ in the softball world. I wanted nothing more than to earn a position on a college softball team and attend university as a student-athlete, hoping one day to make the national team.

I took advantage of every opportunity I could to help me attain that goal. Sadly, when the season of college applications neared, the political climate in the U.S. made me no longer want to be in school there,  even though softball is more popular In America than in Canada.

Lang brings it in with her Coquitlam Classics Team mates. Lang brings it in with her Coquitlam Classics Team mates.
 

I also felt the need to stay in B.C., close to my family. I ended up turning down college softball offers and instead took an academic admission to the University of British Columbia, Vancouver campus. I was ecstatic about my freshman year, even though not playing college ball was a hard pill to swallow.

Lang has made peace with tough choices- though she sorely misses not playing college ball. Lang has made peace with tough choices- though she sorely misses not playing college ball.

For a while, it felt as if all of my athletic effort and commitment had amounted to nothing. But I began to realize that my devotion to sport taught me valuable life lessons.

Playing competitive sports gave me humility, gratitude, perseverance, and leadership.  Participating in NAIG fostered new goals and passions, and guided me to where I am today.

My NAIG experience set in motion a chain of opportunities that led to me receiving the Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence, being included as an Aboriginal athlete in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, contributing to a CBC Podcast series, and representing my province as a Team 88 Ambassador.

Although COVID-19 means I am no longer playing softball, I am happy about where I am today and where I believe my future lies.  NAIG helped me discover a passion for Indigenous rights, and prompted my academic move toward First Nations and Indigenous Studies at UBC.  My new long-term goal is to attend law school and eventually pursue a career as a lawyer.

 

 

Having to make a major change of plans was unsettling at first, but it has also been exciting to pursue new possibilities.  COVID-19 showed me that life will keep throwing curveballs and all I can do is learn to adapt.  If there is a bright side to a global pandemic, it’s that it creates opportunities. I can grow by challenging my mental toughness, my resilience, and my versatility.  COVID-19 took away simple pleasures, like working out at the gym or playing soccer with friends, but in return it has given me  confidence to adapt, face adversity, and also to be more empathetic towards others.  I am lucky to have had only minimal impact from the pandemic.

COVID-19 has put things in perspective. I think many people can relate.

 

Next Question:The Hunter Lang edition

Q: The best book you've read? 
A: 1984. George Orwell.

Q: Must-listen podcast?
A:  mediaINDIGENA.

Q: Best advice you ever received?
A: Hard work beats talent every time.

Q: If your life is a movie, what would it be called?
A: The Struggle of Being a Cool Nerd.

Q: Word or phrase you overuse? 
A: : "I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested." (As Sheldon Cooper says on the Big Bang Theory)

Q: Skill you wish you had?
A: To be multilingual.

Q: Something no one would guess about you?
A: I have a black belt in taekwondo.

Q: What scares you?
A: Spiders.

Q: Who gets an invite to your ultimate influential dinner party?
A: Jody Wilson-Raybould, Kamala Harris, Joe Pass, George Benson, Charlie Parker, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Homer.

Q: What makes you cry, every time? 
A: When Celie is separated from her sister (Nettie) in The Colour Purple.

Q: Next goal?
A: My next goal is to earn a position in the Political Science major or honours program at UBC.

 

All Images submitted by Hunter Lang

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