Lacrosse may technically be Canada’s national game, but for some Hay River Reserve students, Derek Squirrel says last week will has planted the seeds of a new appreciation for the sport.
“It’s something new for the kids,” said the program manager for the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT at Chief Sunrise Education Centre last week.
“It’s not softball, it’s not soccer, it’s not basketball, it’s something else, with new skills to develop.”
Squirrel is on a tour of five communities introducing lacrosse to schools in the hopes of forming a team to take to the next North American Indigenous Games. He said taking athletes to the games last summer and seeing how many competitive lacrosse teams there are in the south inspired him to create a team for future games. The goal is to develop a group of athletes under the age of 16 for the 2017 games, meaning the target age now is 10- to 12-years of age.
“The kids are enjoying it,” said Squirrel. “And the two-day workshop really allows us to give them the basics and let them practise some of the key skills.”
Albert Jensen said he liked throwing the ball the best and would like to play again. Shalayna McArthur agreed but said “passing is tricky.”
All the equipment brought to schools in Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River will remain after the workshops, allowing for the sport to be played in gym classes and as an extra-curricular activity. While the goal is to develop a competitive team to represent the NWT, Squirrel said learning the root of the game is worth knowing in and of itself.
“We’re also passing on the history of the game,” he said. “It was considered the creator’s game and it’s been played for thousands of years. It was a way of settling disputes instead of going to war, and it could go on for a few hours or for days.”
Squirrel also said he hopes lacrosse catches on in the North, and is confident a lot of schools have been excited to incorporate it into their regular classes.
“It’s a great sport and it makes a lot of sense for us to play it here,” he said.