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  • Charles Knowles

Home Team Advantage: All About Team Alaska

The 2024 Arctic Winter Games holds a special place for Team Alaska as they bear the title of hometeam for this year’s event, hosted in the heart of Alaska’s most scenic Mat-Su Valley. 

Team Alaska’s roster is impressive, featuring 275 athletes competing in all 20 sporting events, backed by a dedicated group of 54 coaches and 16 mission staff members, including four participants in cultural arts. But it's not just the numbers that make them stand out. 

The coaches, many of whom are former athletes, make up the driving force behind Team Alaska. Their transition from competitors to mentors reflects a time-honored tradition of giving back to the next generation. Through their guidance, young athletes practice the intricacies of their sport, but also learn the values of leadership, empathy, and camaraderie. This mentorship is crucial in preparing these developing athletes for both competition and life beyond the games.

Team Alaska operates largely through the efforts of volunteers. With just one paid staff member, the team exemplifies a community-driven approach to diverse sports development. This reliance on the community not only showcases Alaska’s driven and competitive spirit, but also helps the Games remain accessible to everyone in the state, including those indigenous youth athletes from furthest remote areas. 

This accessibility is vital in bringing diverse experiences to the games and in promoting a wider understanding and appreciation of Alaskan’s unique way of life.

Sarah Frampton, a veteran board member of Team Alaska, now serving as Executive Director, emphasizes the importance of these games as a platform for young Alaskans to lead “parallel lives– excelling in sports while staying connected to their cultural heritage.” In an exclusive interview early last week, Frampton said that participating in the Arctic Winter Games is “wildly unique, filled with the excitement of international competition, cultural exchanges, and the formation of lasting friendships across language barriers.”

The Games themselves are an electrifying experience, as described by participants and volunteers alike. From trading pins to learning new game rules, and making friends from around the circumpolar north, the 2024 Games are a genuine celebration of indigenous youth, friendly competition, and cultural diversity.

For Alaskan athletes, this week’s events are an opportunity to compete on the international level, representing their home state and the array of diverse communities within it. The sense of community, the dedication of volunteers, and the passion of the athletes embody the spirit of Alaska.

The Arctic Winter Games leaves a lasting impact on its participants. Beyond the thrill of competition, athletes look forward to the fun of making friends, experiencing travel and adventure, and they take pride in representing their state. Dubbed by some as the "AWG hangover," the post-games period leaves many sad and longing to return, missing the unique blend of competition and community spirit that defines this uniquely Northern event.

Team Alaska's approach to the Arctic Winter Games highlights a broader mission to nurture well-rounded individuals who value their heritage and understand the importance of community. As athletes compete on this international stage, they do so not just for the shining Ulu medal and bragging rights, but also to showcase their home state’s unique spirit and the community-centered values that make Alaska the remarkable place so many of us call home.


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