Chinook senior Ethan Bell part of Warrior Movement; local teams adjust to a new off-season schedule
June 17, 2020
Former Arlee Warrior Head Coach Zanan Pitts had one of the most successful runs in Class C Boys Basketball history. Under his reign the Warriors won multiple State C Tournaments and were the first team in Class C History to qualify for four consecutive state tournaments. While his teams accomplishments on the court are forever etched in history, Pitts achievements off the court are legendary.
In February of 2018 Pitts, Pend d'Oreille first descendant, helped oversee the development of the "Warrior Movement".
Joined by his Warrior student athletes, his family, Warriors videographer Jordan Lefler and various members from Arlee and the surrounding area, came together to create The Warrior Movement. The group created a not for profit organization that to this day continues to spread messages of positiveness throughout Montana and beyond.
The Warrior Movement is monumental in its scope with the main objective to bring hope to those contemplating suicide. According to their website their mission statement goes on to say, "It's about spreading the message that there are people who care, that life is precious, and there are programs and life skills they can learn to help them get through the tough times. We aim to bring awareness to those who have the means to step up and make a difference with those going through these struggles."
The statement goes on to state, "The Warrior Movement is about developing a Warrior mentality in this battle against the darkest of foes. That means cultivating the courage to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of others. We are all stronger when we fight together. Our goal is to provide free and positive youth activities and community events to promote family and community involvement. Our motto is 'Together We Rise', and we strongly believe that coming together as one and finding a sense of belonging can help in this battle against suicide. We strive to give youth a platform to have a voice and to be able to voice opinions on such topics."
After its launch, the group produced a video that quickly went viral, reaching more than 1.1 million views in a very short amount of time. This rapid exposure led to national exposure garnering the attention of the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN. Furthermore their video brought in sponsorship from NIKE and was also featured on NBA TV as well as the New York Times. In addition a $50,000 grant was obtained for mental health services at Two Eagle River.
Pitts eventually stepped down as Head Coach of the Warriors following a long battle with the school board and some tribal members. Following his departure Pitts stated that he has no interest in coaching any team other than the Warriors in the high school ranks, but that he would remain at the helm of the Warrior Movement.
One component of the Warrior Movement is the assembly of a team of All-Stars that competes in various basketball tournaments in the Western United States and features top notch Native American Talent.
This years team includes Chinook Sugarbeeter standout, senior Ethan Bell. Bell is a Northern C All-State and District 9C First Team Selection for his efforts on the court during the 2018-19 basketball season.
Bell works constantly on perfecting his game, both on the court and off. Bell also relishes his role as a leader on the team and as a mentor to local youth in Chinook and beyond.
His understanding of the position he is in isn't lost on him and he humbly accepts the role, "Being apart of the Warrior Movement is an incredible honor and it's tough to put into words how blessed I am to be apart of, not only the basketball team, but the movement itself. Guys on the basketball team include, Riley Spoonhunter, Famous Lefthand, Brenden Johnson, along with much other talent," said Bell.
Part of being with the Warrior Movement is being active and involved in their community and the senior released his own Public Service Announcement (PSA). "My goal in the Warrior Movement PSA, was to inspire people of all ages to get out and enjoy the weather and exercise. I have received a ton of positive feedback regarding the video and just to know that I'm positively affecting someone's life means a whole lot. I'm just trying to be a positive role model for these younger kids and inspire them to do big things so they can be like me on and off the court, if not better than I am."
Teams Adjust to new Summer Schedules
Normally June is a hectic month for student athletes taking the first step in preparing for the upcoming season. Every year new seniors look forward to taking on leadership roles and underclassmen look to make bigger contributions in the new school year.
Generally the student athlete has the opportunity to really step into their new spots with a solid team effort to begin summer. In years past teams participated in a multitude of team activities including tournaments, team camps, open gyms and individual camps.
This summer with COVID-19 restrictions affecting nearly every activity of their normal lives, changes are drastic in how they are moving through their summer.
Chinook senior Ethan Bell addressed that issue with how the Sugarbeeters have approached their summer activities, "It's the same goal as every year, get better each and every day. We let it slip away from us last year and I've been watching film every day ever since on things I can do better to help this team be more successful. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 the summer basketball season just isn't the same."
With a new normal Bell and his teammates have made the best of what's available, "Some (tournaments) have canceled, and if they haven't then it has been very limited to how many teams/players are allowed there. Open gyms have kind of been the same, even though we can only be there for a limited amount of time. I just try to go as much as I possibly can. Even though the gyms may have been closed it hasn't given me the excuse to not work on my game if I want to get this team back to the state tournament and accomplish my goal of winning the title."
Chinook Head Boys Basketball Coach Mike Seymour added, "We've been holding open gyms and practices on Thursday nights. We'll go to the Glendive tourney, June 19-21 and then go to the Malta tourney on June 27-28."
The Chinook Sugarbeeter Football and Girls Basketball teams are again under the direction of Head Coach Mike Jones and have got in as much work as they can, "We have been doing weights on Tuesday nights, open field on Thursday mornings. We will attend a small camp with Belt and Circle at the end of July as far as the football program is concerned."
"The girls have been holding open gyms on Monday nights, shoot around Friday afternoons, and will head to the Glendive tournament June 19-21," added Jones.
The Sugarbeeter Volleyball Team under the guidance of Paula Molyneaux, "Summer plans are just to open the gym once a week and try to get the kids going as much as possible.
Molyneaux added that the restrictions have forced teams to evaluate their approach to summer workouts, "For volleyball they have closed down most camps and tourneys. The Big Sky State Games have some options for outdoor triples and fours. We are hoping to keep everyone healthy so that we have a chance to play in the fall. Open gym is held Wednesday nights 6 p.m. for incoming 7-8 grade students and 7 p.m. for grades 9-12..
The Hays/Lodge Pole Thunderbird Girls Basketball team have been extremely busy to begin the summer. Tribal regulations have kept the girls outside but Head Coach Corey Morgan has gotten plenty of work in with his team, "We've been on the football field working out since last week. This weekend we played four games in Belt. Next weekend we are in Cut Bank for another tournament. Then we will head to the tournament in Malta and play again in Belt at the end of the month. As of now we have nothing planned for July.
The Turner Boys and Girls Basketball teams have been in the gym as well holding open gyms on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Both the boys and the girls will take part in the Malta Tournament and Head Girls Basketball Coach Julie Welsh added that a number of her players are attending various summer basketball camps as well.