Behind the scenes of the All Native Basketball Tournament, one women spends her winter preparing indigenous teams for the event while also ramping up to compete herself.
For Cary-Lynn Cochrane there are two seasons: fishing and basketball. Since she was 19 she has worked beside Peter Haugan, the president of the All Native Basketball Tournament, and when she’s not playing basketball she hops aboard his boat to fish for prawns and shrimp.
“It’s so beautiful. My office is the water,” she said from her desk in the All Native office on Third Avenue. She sends out the invitations to the teams, collects the money and distributes the rosters.
Raised by athletic parents in Prince Rupert, Cochrane picked basketball up in high school and took part in renowned coach Mel Bishop’s camps to solidify the fundamentals of the sport.
“I just remember being at the gym all the time while my mom was playing basketball. I kind of followed in her footsteps. I’m actually still playing with her to this day. She’s 53 and still playing,” Cochrane said.
When she was only 14 years old, she participated in her first All Native tournament with her mother and this year she anticipates the tournament to be the most memorable yet — when she steps on the court in her Prince Rupert Rain jersey with her mother and her younger sister, Carly, at her side.
That moment may even surpass the time Cochrane was awarded MVP, High Scorer and Most Promising Player when she was only 16-years-old.
This year, the team has stepped up their training in preparation for the tournament. The women’s team entered the recreational men’s league to toughen up and change their mindset on how they play.
“Now, when we play against women we’re just like, ‘go hard and pretend it’s just like we’re going against the men,’” she said.
As for personal training, Cochrane prefers to just show up and play basketball. But now that she’s playing with her sister, who she calls a health nut, she feels inspired to run more.
Cochrane also met her partner, Derek Reece, at the All Native Tournament when she was 14 years old. The couple now have two boys, Hayden, 5, and Jax, 3. She sees Prince Rupert as the perfect place to raise their kids — with walks along Butze Rapids trail, sledding in the winter at the golf course and seals to be fed at Rushbrook.
Being a commercial fisher-woman, and leaving for weeks at a time, is tougher now that she’s a mother. Cochrane joined Haugan’s boat after she first met him on the courts, when he was her basketball coach for the All Native tournament. As a rookie on his boat, she baited the prawn traps.
“A trap weighs 7lbs, so your arms are getting a workout. We haul 300 and set 300 a day,” Haugan said, who sat across from Cochrane during the interview. The bait also weighs 50lbs a sack. “We figured it out, you do about anywhere between 6,000-8,000 lbs a day of lifting.”
Her off-season job is cross-training for winter tournaments. Now, that she has put her time on the boats, she’s been promoted as a finger packer. She sorts through the prawns and boxes them based on size.
“When I first started this I looked at this pile and thought, you have got to be kidding me. How do you know what size is which? But you get the swing of things as time goes by,” she said.
On a good day, she finger packs from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. from May to June. She used to go shrimping from September to December until All Native organizing took priority in the winter months.
“My year is always changing and that’s what I like about it. I don’t get bored of anything,” she said bursting with nothing but gratitude for her life on the North Coast.
In the summer months, her family travels back to their property in Manitoba, where her Cree grandparents originated before seeking work in Prince Rupert. North of Winnipeg, her mother’s family has a historical farm with acres of land. They are working on getting a grant to preserve the site as a national landmark.
She considers her grandparents her biggest supporters, next to her parents. They’re at every game and always have a water and a Powerade ready for her. After the All Native Basketball Tournament, her team plans to compete in March Madness in Kincolith, then onto a tournament in Kitimat in April.
“Basketball is something that I have never quit my whole life. I love this sport and hopefully I have the longevity to play as long as my mother who also has the love for the game. She’s probably where I get it from,” Cochrane said.