OHSWEKEN — The number and quality of Six Nations Minor Lacrosse graduates in the NLL and OLA really is astounding considering the size of the Six Nations community, proving a developmental system that really works. But it doesn’t just happen, even in a community that that is so proud of its lacrosse heritage. It takes dedicated coaches, supportive parents and a local lacrosse profile not many other communities possess.
The Six Nations Minor Lacrosse Association offers Six Nations kids something to aspire to, and heroes to emulate and it’s always been that way, even before European contact. Lacrosse in its infancy was known as the younger brother of war, and was used to settle different es between communities or clans. In that sense, a lacrosse player was seen as a warrior and the game was also developed to keep the warriors in fighting shape if called upon to defend their homes from other tribes’ aggression.
Times have changed over the generations and the Warriors aspect of the Creators Game, as it is now in indigenous circles, has evolved into one of the most exciting team sports there is and has spread world-wide in the past 20 years. Some are rightfully advocating lacrosse to be a full medal sport at the Olympics due to its global growth.
All the more incentive to represent the Six Nations heritage on the world stage.
This past weekend, the community came together at the Six Nations Community Hall to honour its young, up and coming future stars of the game at the annual SNML awards banquet.
Kevin MacNaughton president of Six Nations Minor Lacrosse looked pleased but tired after organizing and seeing through the gathering of members of the SNLA and their families at the annual event.
“We do this to encourage all the kids,” said MacNaughton. “Not just in lacrosse, but in life.”
He says that enrolment was down by just a few numbers this past season but averaged around 400 kids at various ages and levels of development.
“It’s not about the executive making it happen. Without the volunteers this just wouldn’t happen as good as it does,” says MacNaughton. “We have coaching staffs and managers that help the players along, and I give them a big round of applause for their volunteer work with our kids.”
Some of these kids may go on to higher levels of the game, but even for those who don’t, the life lessons one gains from participating in team sports and the life long friends one gains along the way is maybe even more valuable in the long run. Lessons in teamwork, responsibility, even anger management can add to one’s set of life tools moving forward, and in the meantime, it keeps kids active and out of trouble.
He is well aware that when a Six Nations team, at any level, travels or hosts a team from off reserve, indigenous culture is many times on full display as well.
“Our goal is to get the kids to take something home with them,” says MacNaughton. “Our main goal is to make a better person in life. “Building our kids is a bigger reward that actually winning championships.” Although he admits winning championships along the way certainly makes it more fun. We are always building for the future.”
Another reason for the continued success of Six Nations lacrosse players is the fact that as players make their way through the ranks and into the pros, almost to a man, they go into coaching or managing to some degree when their playing career is over bringing with them experience and little tricks of the trade that separate a good player from a great one. There is usually around 100 volunteer coaches needed every season.
With the growth of the game getting floor time at either the Gaylord Powless Arena, Iroquois Lacrosse Arena and the use of arenas in Hagersville and Caledonia are required to accommodate the need for 20-22 teams per-years. Then there is the OLA Jr. C Warriors, Jr. B Rebels, Jr. A Arrows, Sr. B Rivermen, Major Series Chiefs and various tournaments and practices occupying floor time as well.
“I think we could use another pad here for sure,” says MacNaughton.
A good portion of the enrolment is hockey players keeping sharp during the off-season, but here at Six Nations, it’s usually hockey being used to keep sharp for the next lacrosse season. Either way the two arenas on reserve can not handle the sheer logistics of arranging floor time forcing Hagersville and Caledonia to host Six Nations teams.
After a few weeks off, the league begins its work in setting up the upcoming season with discussions of possible recommended rule changes or welcoming new teams into the lacrosse family.
“There’s not much I would change actually,” says MacNaughton. “Just week a few things and that will be about it.”
One thing he has noticed in the minor ranks is a general lack of conditioning which he would like to see addressed.
“Conditioning,” says MacNaughton. “Thats what I see our kids are lacking. We have the talent but when it comes to the running game, we don’t have the conditioning.”
Next seasons MacNaugton hopes coaches will build a little more conditioning into their practices.