Nunavik volleyball team disappointed by treatment at Québec Games
“They named the 19 regions and did not name us”
A series of disappointing experiences at a provincial sports tournament this week turned into a lesson about cultural pride for a Nunavik volleyball team of teenage Inuit girls.
Since Nunavik is not an official delegation at the Quebec Games, Philippe Paradis, the general director of Nunavik Volleyball, had to arrange for his team of a dozen 12- to 16-year-old girls to be invited by another team to participate.
They still paid the estimated $40,000 to enter the competition, held in Thetford Mines this year, but their status as an invited team meant all the difference this year.
It was not the first time Nunavik Volleyball had been an invited team at this sports competition. But in 2010 things were a lot different.
Then, Nunavik’s players were allowed to wear their own uniforms. But this year, the girls found out shortly after arriving they were expected to wear the uniforms of the team that invited them.
Paradis said that Sports Québec later apologized for how the team was treated.
“A few months before, we had directives to do our own shirt,” Paradis said. “But it was never clarified. When we got there, two hours before our first game, we were told we had to wear the shirts of Chaudière-Appalaches because we were an invited team.”
Paradis said that Sports Québec told him at that time that the uniforms had to show the names of the tournament sponsors.
Prior to the tournament, someone with Sports Québec told the Nunavik team they needed to provide their own uniform, said Paradis. But that person later left the organization, and there was a “gap in communication,” he said.
“There was a lot of rigidity and rules,” Paradis said.
Sports Québec later offered a compromise: the team could wear their own jerseys underneath Chaudière-Appalaches jerseys. But the Nunavik team decided to flout the rules and just wear their own uniforms.
“I was very proud,” Paradis said.
However, the problem with the shirts was just the first speed bump.
During the 2010 games, Nunavik was introduced and welcomed like all the other teams. Not so this year.
“They named the 19 regions and did not name us,” Paradis said. “That was the toughest part.”
He said he could see the hurt in the girls’ eyes when they looked at him wondering why they were not announced.
As well, in 2010 the Nunavik team, like the rest, had a professionally printed banner hanging behind their benches.
This year, while every other team had their name printed in professionally designed calligraphy, Nunavik’s was written, seemingly as an afterthought, in black marker.
“Someone just dropped the ball and no one picked it up,” Paradis said.
After Paradis started speaking to reporters and making complaints about the experience, the general manager met up with his team the next day to offer apologies and say it would not happen again at future Quebec Games.
Paradis believes the bad experience was not intentional and plans to return with his team in two years at the next Quebec Games.
In the end, Paradis’ team lost all of their matches. Most of the Nunavik girls had very little experience at volleyball—some only a few weeks—and had come just to play, practise and have fun.
“We weren’t expecting to win but the context was just overwhelming,” Paradis said.