Growing the game of lacrosse

Published: Jul. 29, 2017 at 11:15 PM CDT
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Lacrosse is a Native American tradition and used to be played as a ceremony. The 7 Flames organization is aiming to grow all aspects of the sport here in South Dakota.

"My grandpa who's 90, he talked about playing the sport when he was a boy,” said Cody Hall, the head of the 7 Flames Lacrosse organization. “But he was told to keep it hush–hush because if government agents knew that they were playing they would snap kids up and just take them, because the government saw it as ceremonial."

About 80 years ago, it was illegal for the indigenous people to play lacrosse – a sport they invented. Now lacrosse is big in some regions of the country. It’s Hall’s mission to make South Dakota one of those regions. He's doing that with his 7 Flames program and camp.

"I think it's really exciting because it introduces it to not only myself but everyone else that's here," said Pearl Cano, 7 Flames lacrosse player.”

"Imagine one of these kids coming from South Dakota and going to a big time program and someone looks at the roster and goes 'wait, wait, wait now,'” said Hall.” Because everyone is used to the East Coast."

Instructing the camp are two members of the 2015 Denver University national championship team.

"To kind of give back to these kids that look up to me, it's an awesome feeling,” said Brendan Bomberry. “And I'm going to do whatever I can to help. I'm going to keep coming back here each year so they can keep growing the game. It's been awesome so far."

"As a Native American, it's huge to be an ambassador to Native Americans growing up and moving on and looking at that path to go to college, and using lacrosse as that pathway," said Zachary Miller, another camp instructor and former Denver University player.

This year's camp marked the first time a division one coach has worked with players in South Dakota. Lars Tiffany, the Head Coach at the University of Virginia spoke about growing up playing sports in upstate New York with his friends from the Onondaga Tribe.

"I'm playing football, basketball, even a little bit of baseball, with my Native American friends,” said Tiffany. “And the games were fun. We enjoyed our time together. The season would end and we'd move on. But during the lacrosse games there was something different. There was something more meaningful. You could feel it in the parents, in the sidelines, and certainly could see it in the eyes of my friends, my Native friends."

"It's really cool. It's a really big opportunity to show him what I have — and everybody else, what they have," said 7 Flames player Joel Walker.

Lacrosse has come a long way. And in South Dakota, the elders that once played in secret are seeing the sport continue to grow.

"And so now that they see their great grandchildren, or great–great grandchildren playing, they're like 'wow this is amazing,'" said Hall.