Nyastrong Warriors Gear Up for New Season

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Coach Richard Durham, now heading into his sixth year of coaching in Yelm and 12th year overall, believes in creating leaders through athletics.

Durham is currently the head coach for the Nyastrong Warriors basketball team in Yelm, which recently started their season. He coaches a group of second graders, and has high hopes and expectations for them.

“We are a very challenging program to play for. Our program creates leaders. How we do that is our players are taught to run the team and in 12 years that hasn’t failed us once,” said Durham.

Durham has a group online for parents of his program, where he shares videos of different drills for the parents to show their kids. By promoting this type of work outside of a practice environment,  Durham said he is setting his athletes up for success by helping mold their work ethic.

“All our girls buy into and help create our culture,” he said. “They understand that the team, and therefore their teammates, depend on them. Whether it is team and/or individual practice at home, they put six to seven days a week into getting better.”

Practices for the Nyastrong Warriors basketball team started in November.

Durham spoke highly of last year’s team and said they helped set the bar for the current group of girls he coaches.

“Our last group of girls by wins alone arguably was the best program in the state for their division,” he said. “They set the bar very high for our incoming group of second graders.”

A month into practices, Durham feels strongly about how the girls have molded together. 

“In our short time together, they are exceeding expectations,” he said. “Basically the circumstances of the pandemic that are out of our control have been a pain in the butt. We have done extremely well focusing on the things we can control and that will translate to the court.”

As sports of all ages have felt, COVID-19 has created a lot of stress and restrictions. Durham gave credit to the parents of the program for their dedication throughout the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has been very challenging because of state mandates for the last and current group of girls,” he said. “As a program, we continue to have zero team issues because of COVID. That is completely credited to our parents and families. We make a conscious effort to work together.”

The team is named after Nya Jaquez, who was a Yelm High School student who died from cancer in 2016. Jaquez is described as a beacon of light for the community.

In 2016, she brought the community together when she was an honorary team captain for the Yelm Tornados football team, where they would go on to defeat Thomas Jefferson High School. As the Warriors’ season begins, a new generation of YCS students are taking up the Nyastrong name.

The Nisqually Valley News had the opportunity to ask the girls on the team what “Nyastrong” means to them.

(Nyastrong) means love,” said Eliana Missildine, who is 7. “The love of sports, the love of our town and the love of our family.”

Sariah Parker, who is also 7 years old, said “Nyastrong means being tough,” while 7-year-old Ali Ferrez said “we’re getting stronger and stronger just like Nya showed. We work hard and fight for what we love like Nya.”

The Nyastrong Warriors are looking to add another girl to the team for this upcoming season. For more information, contact yelmwarriors@gmail.com.

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