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Learning Leadership Through Sports: US Lacrosse Hosts Clinic for Native American Youth

On the evening of July 30, I had the honor of addressing the 165 youth leaders from 53 tribes who were attending the 2012 National Intertribal Youth Summit in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I stressed the importance of fitness within all of the American Indian and Alaska Native communities, especially since childhood obesity is one of the most pressing issues currently facing Indian Country. I believe that through sports like lacrosse, which increase physical activity and simultaneously reinforce cultural heritage, we can help to get our youth on the path toward healthier lifestyles. Thanks to US Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body, we spent an hour and a half getting active and learning the basic skills of the game.

Photo Credit: Nahal Hamidi, DOI

We practiced catching, scooping, and throwing with the lacrosse sticks and played 3 on 3 games. Lacrosse is an important sport in many Native American communities because it is derived from a traditional stickball game. Different Native communities believe that the game was a gift from the Creator, and it is called ‘The Medicine Game.’ The name is suiting and meaningful because it is played to keep communities strong, to help heal the sick, to raise the hearts of the people, and to bring great life to the children. I really worked up a sweat playing lacrosse for the first time and US Lacrosse did a tremendous job making lacrosse a fun and accessible activity for everyone involved.

Photo Credit: Nahal Hamidi, DOI

Through the lacrosse event, many of the youth learned that athletics and physical activities can help foster leadership skills. Historically in the tribes that played the game, lacrosse players were considered leaders and I believe that these youth will be able to use the values learned at the Summit to inspire change in their respective communities. I’m excited that this group will have the ability to bring lacrosse back to their tribes and schools because their chaperones were briefed on the process of applying for equipment grants. US Lacrosse offers equipment grants for Physical Education, which also includes curriculum. Additionally, groups can apply to US Lacrosse’s First Stick Program, which will help the youth leaders take the first steps to creating a full lacrosse program in their communities.

Learn more about Let's Move! in Indian Country

Dion Killsback, Counselor to the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs