The Battle of Sports vs Alcohol In Alaska Native Women

The Battle of Sports vs Alcohol In Alaska Native Women
March 24, 2015 Kelly Logue



University of Alaska Fairbanks athlete, Brianna Kirk struggles to understand the death of her classmate and friend. “Out of anger and fury, he probably got way out of control and took his life,” Kirk said. “If he hadn’t drank, I feel like this would not have happened.”

Although some have succumbed to the pressures of alcohol, others find a way to break through the wall covered in whiskey and beer. One of the things these women turn to is sports.

For the UAF Women’s Basketball team, rules state that no alcohol can be consumed if a person is under the age of 21.  If a person is 21 or over, they can only consume alcohol if there is a full 24 hours between a competition or participation in a community event as a women’s basketball player representing UAF.

2013-2014 UAF Women's Basketball Team.  Brianna Kirk #13

2013-2014 UAF Women’s Basketball Team. Brianna Kirk #13


“Alcohol was a problem with my family,” Kirk’s cousin, Trisha Norton said. “My aunt died from alcohol poisoning in 2008 and that was an eye opener that alcohol has the ability to take lives from us.”

Norton started drinking her junior and senior year.  This led to her skipping an egregious amount of school and graduating a semester later than was planned.  Some are not as lucky as Norton;  Alaskan Natives are more likely to drop out before finishing high school and are less likely to finish college. (How much more likely And according to who?)

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the physiologic effects of alcohol use in women are more devastating than in men.


“Women are more susceptible the detrimental physiological effects of alcohol with more rapid intoxication and more rapid development of liver disease.” (who said this?)


Nevertheless, Norton had confessed to Kirk about why she drank. “Drinking was something I did to numb myself from my family drama, boy drama, and to just get away,” she said. “Basketball did the same for me, but it only lasted three months out of the year so it was hard to stay away from alcohol afterwards. I’m lucky nothing bad happened during the times I drank.”

(Before the last sentence of the quote Norton gives, introduce a lead-in idea. That way there’s more context and less block sentences)

 “I had a 15 year old cousin who drank almost every weekend, a lot of my aunts and uncles drank too.” (who said this?)

 She had quit drinking for about five months and during that time she had begun to get involved with sports.

 “Sports and being without alcohol helped me do much better in school too,” she said. “I slipped last year and there were nights I don’t remember, but now I realize that it isn’t worth it to drink.” (?)

 Kirk opened up about her relationship with alcohol and why basketball is so important to her.

 “My parents drank as I was growing up and I think that has influenced me to where I thought drinking was okay.” (said who?)

 She stated that she had drank a few times but alcohol abuse is so common in the village (Noatak), that it can have an affect on everyone when something tragic happen so that’s what kept her away from it.  She also exclaimed how people in the village always want to take action after something bad happens, especially when it has something to do with alcohol.

 “I also had a classmate commit suicide while drinking my freshman year so that was really hard on everyone and like my friends aunt, it was another eye opener.”

Kirk continued with a somber story about her former classmate. (necessary detail?)

“My freshman year this time of the year my classmate decided to drink,” she said. “I think he was in a relationship with another girl, and they were having some issues when he decided to drink… No one would’ve ever suspected him to have done that, friends or family, so it was tragic and impacted a lot of people.”

They had their village leaders and elders come in to their classes for a substantial amount of time and talked to them about how important it is to stay away from drinking and how to prevent suicide from happening.

 In a study conducted by the University of Colorado, Denver, it showed that alcohol related problems are noted as; death, sexual abuse, suicide, guilt/shame, depression, accidents, victimization, loss of stability or self esteem.  Sadly the list goes on and on.

 “Basketball opened a lot of doors for me and took me far in life.”

 Nora Simmons who has lived in Fairbanks her entire life, was a former Gonzaga Women’s basketball player and High School basketball coach.

 “My life was basketball, it kept me so focused and kept me out of trouble, and from dating guys,” she said.  It was one of those things in life. It took me a long way and gave me a good foundation. “

 When recalling her playing from the 70s, she specifically remembers a significant amount of more native girls who played basketball once she started coaching than when she was a player herself.

 “There weren’t any native girls on our basketball team.  Being at Monroe there were native kids from the villages that came in and boarded here in town, but they were very quiet and reserved.  None of the girls played sports.  Now there are twice as many girls.”

 When she was playing basketball they didn’t have a three point line and they played with the men’s ball.

 “There were so many people in fairbanks at the time in the 70s, basketball was the only sport at my school.  All the money went to the basketball team.”

 In regards to drinking during her high school career in Monroe, Nora remembers that it wasn’t uncommon for the girls to drink and party.  She herself was not a big drinker.

 “There was a lot of partying that went on, I don’t know about kids today, but there was a lot of alcohol and pot smoking.  There wasn’t a lot of other drugs.  I wasn’t around that crowd I guess.”

 She had a curfew and she knew that if she partied it would affect her on the court and in the classroom.

“All I know was there was a big share of girls who partied when I was in high school. But when I was coaching I didn’t hear of any of my kids partying.”

 Nora was an off campus coach which made a big difference on the information she overheard.

 For Alaskan Native women, she discovered from years of coaching that their attitudes on playing basketball really depended on where they are from.

 “If they came out of one of the villages where basketball is like, a real popular sport in the native community then most were pretty good, but it depends on their background and the history of the sport in their village.”

 Nora Simmons believes that basketball is a major sport in most villages in Alaska.  Maybe it’s the competitiveness, maybe it’s the gratification one can get after winning a game.  The kind of feeling that alcohol can’t provide you.  But what she can say for sure about the girls she saw throughout her years playing and coaching is;

“Some of them are just so into it and some just arent.  You either are all in or you’re not.“


Kelly Logue
I am 22-years-old and a Broadcast Journalism major with a minor in Justice. I am also on the women's basketball team for UAF and will be graduating spring 2015.


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