Navajo artist Teddy Draper, Jr. is not only passionate about his art, Navajo culture and De Chelly homeland, but also about coaching his Arizona Bluebirds Girls Basketball team.
In this community on the Navajo reservation, Teddy Draper, Jr. devotes much of his free time and efforts to the Chinle Youth Athletic Club; a volunteer drug and alcohol awareness group which helps to provide organized and supervised athletic competitions as an alternative to substance abuse. As a basketball coach he spends his time during the winter months traveling the Southwest with his teams for games and tournament competitions.
Teddy Draper Jr. still remembers the moment he decided to found a youth basketball team in Chinle 27 years ago. He was at a chapter meeting when someone brought up Chinle's increasing alcohol and drug problem.
"Mostly what was said was along the lines of tougher enforcement, building more jails, more youth detention centers," he recalled. "Nothing was said about getting kids to avoid drugs and alcohol in the first place."
Thinking about the things that had made a difference in his own childhood, Draper kept coming back to sports. "The next morning I was on the phone to Father Blane (Grein), asking him if I could use the gym at the Catholic Church."
Since then, every fall, Draper's there unlocking the gym for the Arizona Bluebirds, his girls' 12-and-under team, and the Chinle Rattlers, the boys team.
Proof that basketball is a positive thing: the kids Draper coached two or three decades ago are now sending their kids to him. "I've never had a kid come back and say, 'Thanks, your program kept me out of trouble,'" Draper mused, "but I have had them come back and say, 'I just graduated from college. Thanks for letting me play for you.'