NORMAN, Okla. -- Two hundred Native American youth from the ages of 10-12, with participants from the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, visited Norman on Wednesday afternoon for the inaugural Sooners for N7 event, presented by the University of Oklahoma Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
The event resembled an old-fashioned field day with sport-related and cultural stations as approximately 200 student-athletes volunteered their time throughout the afternoon.
The Nike N7 Initiative is committed to bringing sport and all of its benefits to the Native American and Aboriginal communities in the United States and Canada, and its founder approached OU women’s tennis senior Whitney Wofford about it while she was an intern with the company last summer.
At a SAAC meeting in August, Wofford presented the idea to hold an N7 event at OU, and that is when Sooners for N7 was born. The purpose the event was to give back to the large Native American population in the state of Oklahoma.
As a flagship institution and one of the most prominent athletics departments in the country, SAAC wanted to develop the event to promote health and wellness among Native American youth.
“I am a community outreach liaison for SAAC, and when I heard about N7, I was like, ‘This is a sign. You are going to reach out to your community with this,’ so it just kind of fell together,” Wofford shared. “I did have a vision (for the event). I am very proactive, and I crazily enough think I can change the world someday. I just want to leave my mark here.”
Learning about different fitness activities they could do at home was an important aspect of the day, according to participant Kari Baker from Tishomingo, Okla., who added it was great to have a chance to be active outside this afternoon.
“It’s really important because some kids don’t get the chance to go outside sometimes because they have to stay in and do chores or other things,” Baker said.
Participants had a chance to meet and interact with the student-athlete volunteers, and Rendon Parnacher, a fourth grader from Newcastle, Okla., said it was great getting to talk to them, especially OU quarterback Trevor Knight.
To start off the event, OU head men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger welcomed the students to campus before they split into seven different groups, led by student-athletes. Then, they rotated throughout the stations, including bead work, nutrition, refueling station, stick ball, soccer stretching, track/sprints and hula hoop and jump rope.
Serving as the featured speaker to close the event, N7 representative Veronica Lind told the attendees they can achieve whatever they want to accomplish. Lind, the first member of the Navajo Tribe to become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, has been a representative of N7 since last year, and the event in Norman was her first one at which to speak.
“Sport is just so important to get kids to increase confidence and gain leadership skills, so just in general, sport is great to interact with and provide for kids,” Lind shared. “N7 gives me the opportunity to help reach out to Native American kids and hopefully impact them in some kind of way. What’s important is just to help them grow overall as individuals.”
Juliana Smith, a graduate assistant in the athletics department who serves as an advisor to SAAC, said the student-athletes were excited for the opportunity to bring the kids to campus for the day and to be able to interact with them and tell them about various aspects of their sports.
“A lot of these kids don’t get a chance to come to Norman, and this is their chance to see campus and to see their possibilities of where they could be in the future,” Smith said.
Freshman wrestler Jon Wayne Townsend said he enjoyed being able to give back to the Native American community, and he hopes that the event continues so that he can be involved with it throughout the rest of his collegiate career.
“Oklahoma is a prestigious university, so it means a lot to the kids to be able to come out and interact with the student-athletes here and just joke around, play games and have fun,” Townsend said. “It’s not only a great experience for the kids but also for us, as well.”