WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Robb Floco has a dream to create a Navajo Technical University basketball dream team, and he just found his first big fan.
The NTU Men’s Basketball program head coach presented his proposal to create a community health and wellness athletic basketball program to Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren on Wednesday.
The program is designed to promote positive, healthy lifestyles, positive mental health, and community awareness and give education to kids to promote staying in school.
“There’s a need,” Floco told the President. “There’s a need in our communities. There’s a need for different chapters. I just want to be an extension of you as far as basketball and community outreach, health and wellness, diabetes prevention, and the mental part of it.”
President Nygren was enthusiastic about the idea, recommending that Floco returns to Window Rock to present his proposal to the Navajo Nation Council.
“I like basketball because you can play it anywhere on the reservation,” the President said. “You just put a hoop up, find any old horse corral post to make a backboard out of it, and you’ve got a place to play. Pull out the weeds and you’ve got a court to entertain yourself for hours.”
President Nygren said that’s what kids did in Red Mesa where he grew up, and that’s what kids do throughout the Navajo Nation – making basketball one of the most popular Navajo sports, and filling Albuquerque and Phoenix arenas with Navajos during championship games.
“A new season’s coming up, you’re recruiting,” he told Floco. “I want to figure out how can we make Navajo Tech basketball like nothing else in Indian Country.”
Floco, who holds a Master’s degree in organizational leadership and has been an organizational athletic director for 23 schools in Phoenix, said the NTU Skyhawks program would use learning strategies to assist local youth and community collaboration.
The program would teach skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and the Six Pillars of Character.
Student-athletes from NTU’s basketball program will assist with camps and clinics and share the stories of their journeys through sports with younger participants.
“We’re building a program that’s never been done before,” he said. “There’s trial and tribulations with growth. I’m dedicated and I’m committed to putting Navajo basketball on the map. If I can do community outreach, my hand’s never out. I just want to work and take care of my family.”
Floco said he has volunteered his time to be NTU’s head basketball coach while working at Crownpoint Middle School as its physical education teacher. He and his family have been in Crownpoint for a year since his wife enrolled as a student.
He said there are four tribal college basketball teams, and he has plans for NTU.
“We want to be the top Native American basketball program in the United States,” he said. “I’m passionate about basketball and creating opportunities for youth. I’ve had success recruiting Native American basketball players, as you can see. Our roster is 80% Native. I’m getting the best Navajo basketball players.”
Already the NTU Skyhawks have played some post-grad programs, junior colleges, and Division 1 and Division 2 teams, he said.
Floco’s infectious enthusiasm touched the Navajo president.
“Robb, I like your passion,” President Nygren said. “I like your commitment to the Navajo people. I’ll do what I can to help you.”
“Basketball on Navajo is big,” he said. “It’s not like anywhere else in Indian Country. All these other colleges like to recruit. Fort Lewis recruits our Navajo basketball players. You’ve got Navajo basketball players playing at NAU.”
The President suggested that Floco kickstart the NTU program for the next two seasons by presenting his idea to the Navajo Nation Council and seeking funding for the next two seasons.
“Whatever the budget you come up with, let’s get it through,” the President said. “Navajo basketball is big. We’re promoting our students. We want them to travel. We want to promote Navajo basketball. We want the best Native American basketball program in the country.”
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