Northwest Passage

Coaches Taylor Mathias (left) and Dustin Anderson (right) and the Northwest Passage Pioneers basketball team after their first win. Photo by Submitted

WEBSTER–Northwest Passage continues to break down walls and stereotypes surrounding mental health issues by offering innovative programs and opportunities at their residential treatment facilities. One of the most unique opportunities allows residents of their Prairieview program in Frederic to join a basketball team.

The “Pioneers” as they are called, just wrapped up their third season, and they are just that—Pioneers. The team members have stepped out of their comfort zones, most of them trying basketball, or any organized sport for that matter, for the first time. The team, coordinated and coached by Northwest Passage teacher Taylor Mathias, provides the unique opportunity to bring the girls into the community, allows them to play against other girls their age, and normalizes life for them. The team plays approximately eight games per season against local public and private schools.

It took three seasons, and 21 games, but last week the Pioneers earned their first win in program history. Coach Mathias described the last seconds of that memorable game, “As I watched the final seconds of the game tick down, I knew we had just solidified our first win. I felt like time stood still. I looked around a gymnasium that was full of teachers, therapists, case managers, clinicians, and all sorts of direct care staff that had come out to support their girls. I looked down the bench and saw all of my players and coaching staff trying to hold back their exuberance for just a few more seconds. The clock hit triple zeros; we shook hands with the opposing team, and then the celebrations began. It felt like we had won a National Championship. Fans and family ran onto the court and hugs were given as tears ran down the many proud faces of those who knew just how far these girls have come”.

Another successful season is in the books for the Pioneers of Northwest Passage. Reflecting on the season, Mathias said, “After games, I often get asked, “Did you win?”. With this team, it goes beyond the win/loss column. When I see these girls laughing, high-fiving, and busting some serious dance moves (yes, sometimes they dance during the game), I realize—this is winning! After one of our games this season, I overheard a player tell her teammate, “Wow, tonight I felt normal”. That is a win in my book any day. “

For more information about Northwest Passage call 715-327-4402 or visit nwpltd.org.