Thanks to the vision and determination of one young honors student at University of Washington-Tacoma, the college now has its very first official Basketball Club – the Tacoma Huskies.
Founded by team captain Joshua Seals during the 2012 spring quarter, the UWT Basketball Association and its team of Tacoma Huskies have already made an impact on the court and on their alma mater. The early days of the association were filled with tryouts, practices and informal games at People’s Center and the Longshoremen’s Hall. In need of professional uniforms, Seals designed and led fundraising for jerseys in the Husky colors. Working with UWT Director of Student Involvement Ed Mirecki and Student Advisor Zachary Bruce, Seals went through all the proper channels to get the Basketball Association formally registered with the university. He structured practices, secured a practice facility, taught team unity and the importance of representing the college respectfully.
Hooking up with Comeback Sports, the team competed in the South Sound Sports League and ended the season in a three-game winning streak, finishing with a 4 to 2 record and taking 2nd in the league division. A banquet at the Longshoremen’s Hall was held to celebrate the team’s first season success and they were presented with a large trophy. UWT also congratulated Seals and his teammates at UWT’s 10th annual OSCARS (Outstanding Student Ceremony for Awards and Recognition) banquet where the Basketball Association was nominated for a Campus Impact Award.
Tacoma Huskies reach out to the broader community as well by raising money for the American Cancer Society and collecting clothing, backpacks, books and other school supplies for young people in need. They handed out toys on Christmas Day at Tacoma Rescue Mission and served meals at a local food bank on Thanksgiving Day by collaborating with UWT’s Black Student Union and Latino/a Student Union. The Basketball Association plans to keep this up in addition to holding youth rallies and providing other means of helping area students get the most education they can.
Seals said he couldn’t be more pleased with how things are progressing for the Tacoma Huskies. “UWT not having any (basketball club) just motivated me more so to have sports there,” he said. “The purpose of the organization is to start sports at UWT and lead to more sports like baseball and softball.”
Since the founding of the Basketball Association, other sports clubs are coming together, according to Mirecki, such as ultimate Frisbee and volleyball. “We’re hoping that if we get enough students we can see some organizations grow around those sports too,” he said. “We hope there are more students like Josh out there we can work with to expand other programs as well.”
The advent of the new University YMCA that’s set for completion in late 2014 will help UWT sports flourish. “Once it gets going, it will just make it more exactly what I envisioned,” Seals said. The timing for the new $20 million Y couldn’t be better, as it will be a full-fledged student center where UWT athletes and students will be able to grow in excellence in mind and body.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
Seals graduated from UWT this year, and with honors. He was a Dean’s List student for multiple semesters (for those students with a 3.5 or higher grade point average), a member of the Phi Sigma Theta Honors Society, a part-time staff employee on campus and was even the UW’s sports mascot. He earned an Associates degree with honors in 2011 from Highline Community College, then transferred to UWT as a junior where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in just two years. His field of study is a branch of psychology and sociology called Self and Society. “It deals with individuals and their behaviors and how they react to society around them and how they cope to succeed,” Seals explained. His own life experiences led him to pursue this subject matter, and what he learned in his psychology classes helped pull it all together in ways that inspired him to take action in his own community.
“When people in urban environments don’t have facilities to exercise or play sports…they actually suffer more and derail their grades. It was part of the reason I volunteered at the YMCA and Al Davies Boys and Girls Club. You make that connection with students and encourage them to get their education so they’ll have more opportunities in life.
“It’s a really fun job working with kids. A lot of them don’t have their parents there for them, so they need older people to tell them they can do it, and that they can make it.”
In addition to being a good athlete, Seals said he has always been a good student throughout his school years. He had to work hard to earn his high marks. “I don’t know what it was, but I was driven to succeed from a young age and it got me into college.” Seals said he had to stay focused while in college, and he encourages the youth he encounters to follow this same path in order to succeed in life. “It’s essential that they know from a young age to get involved in school,” Seals said. “College is no joke. There are parties going on and everything, but you have to discipline yourself to succeed. It paid off for me.”
He credits his parents for putting him on the right path from an early age. His mom Rev. Sandra Allen is a songwriter and poet, recording artist, professional pianist and outreach minister, and his dad Rev. Willie Seals, Jr. is a pastor in Seattle. “Joshua has always been a high academic achiever and a role model for his peers,” Allen said. “He’s always been that way from kindergarten on. We’re very proud of him.”
Seals said his parents taught him that family and faith would guide him on his life’s path. “Being a part of two reverends, they trained me to be this way. I appreciate everything they did to raise me because it’s easy to go astray, especially being young and in the city. (Youth) need good role models and we want them to be good role models too and it starts with their education, to stay in school and have opportunities like I have today.”
Joshua Seals is also a minister and travels to various churches in the Tacoma area to speak with and encourage youth. “In my youth ministry I always encourage them to go to college – college will be one of the best times of your life.”
Seals is a rapper as well and performs his own original socially conscious raps at area open mics.
Seals is feeling out career opportunities these days, as he wants to stay in Tacoma. “I’d really like to work with human services and work with people hands-on because that’s what my degree entails,” he said.
Now that he is no longer a student at UWT, Seals said he will stay involved in the association and be there to lend guidance and support to the team under its new leader and UWT senior Alex Johnson.
Mirecki said the campus needs more young men like Seals. “Josh is one of those special students that come around once in a great while. He’s an outstanding guy and someone I’ve really enjoyed getting to know. He sees the value of continuing it stay involved and supporting that next generation of students behind him and that really speaks to his character.”