The Arlee (Mont.) boys basketball team won its second consecutive State C championship late Saturday night in Butte.
But the Warriors are champions thanks to a special effort made earlier in the week to aid suicide prevention.
The Flathead Reservation community was stunned with a teen suicide recently. Sadly, it’s not an infrequent occurrence in America or Montana these days. Native American families, especially, know the heartbreak.
So the Warriors, coached by Zanen Pitts, decided to do something about it.
“We want to shout out to people who are struggling,” Pitts said. “To let them know there’s an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. And we’re here for you.”
The Warriors starred in a video that was posted earlier this week and has gone viral. It offers a message of hope amid a basketball background.
“All the things portrayed in society and movies are about the ‘perfect this and that,’ but you don’t have to be that person,” Pitts said. “You can just be happy with who you are and what you’ve been blessed with.”
Pitts contacted Jordan Lefler, an Arlee graduate with an abundance of talent who produces videos for the team’s Facebook site.
“He’s a real good friend of mine and the boys,” Pitts said. “I asked him to use his talents to help us with a little message.”
They posted a video more than two weeks ago, dedicated to the Flathead Reservation, prior to the team’s divisional tournament.
A second video was posted earlier this week as the Warriors prepared for the State C. It displayed the considerable basketball talents of the Arlee Warriors, as well as an uplifting humanitarian message.
“We dedicated that one to the country,” Pitts said. “It would be special if we could do one more and dedicate it to the world.”
The second video went viral this week, reaching more than a million people with more than 600,000 shares as of Saturday afternoon.
“You never know, it might save one life,” Pitts said. “And if it does, we did our job.”
The Warriors have faith their effort will succeed. Certainly the second video, with the team’s dribbling, shooting, passing and jumping prowess displayed throughout, has caught on.
“We talked about it,” Pitts said. “How God gave the boys their talents, their parents and their careers. And now you’re at this point, and let’s use your skillset and your talents to get people to listen. The ability to dribble, the ability to do what they do, gets people to look at the message.
“And it gets kids excited about it. And that was the plan.”
Pain and depression have always been part of society. And so, unfortunately, has suicide.
But the problems seem worse now.
“A lot of it’s social media, and a lot of it’s TV,” Pitts said. “The adversary has a hold on a lot of things right now. We hope for the Spirit and for God to rise up and push out the negative morals that have taken over this country and society nowadays.”
Teen suicide has been an epidemic across the land and Montana’s suicide rates have ranked second-worst in the nation.
“It’s just a plague,” Pitts said. “It’s hit us hard (on the reservation), and by golly we’re going to try to stop it.”
The text of the video:
“All throughout history warriors protected and fought for their people. Now more than ever we need warriors. Today we are bombarded by technology meant to make our lives better. However we often find ourselves feeling as though we don’t measure up. So please rise up. Many are bullied or made to believe that others have the perfect life or are much better off while we suffer. Please don’t hang around and do nothing. This can lead to a feeling of hopelessness. Many think that suicide is the answer to the way out, but the truth is that we all struggle. You just have to dive in to someone’s life and help. The perfect life portrayed online is not reality. It’s time to stand up as Warriors. To fight for each other and ourselves. We can win this battle against hopelessness. Get involved. Become part of a team either on the court or in the classroom or part of a movement in your community. Find your passion and seek out positive teammates and role models. You are the future leaders of America and we need you. You have the strength, you just have to make the choice to fight. And remember, if you are struggling let us fight for you. We fight for our people. That’s what being a Warrior is all about. Please share this message as we stand up to stop suicide across America. We are the Arlee Warriors. We are dedicating the state tournament. Together we rise. Join the Warrior movement. Please join the Warrior movement and help us spread this message. 1-800-273-8255. There is always someone willing to listen.”