Popularity in lacrosse growing, say Native Vision coaches

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

SHIPROCK, June 6, 2013

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(Special to the Times – Curtis Ray Benally)

TOP: Jeremy Thompson (Onondaga Nation) signs a lacrosse ball for participants of the NativeVision Sports and Life Skills Camp on Tuesday at Shiprock High School.

SECOND FROM TOP: Katie Duffy of Mount Laurel, N.J., signs autographs for NativeVision Sports and Life Skills Camp lacrosse participants on Tuesday in Shiprock.

T here is no secret to playing lacrosse.

That is the way Jeremy Thompson perceives it.

"It's like any sport, you just have to put the time in it to learn it," said Thompson, who was one of the lead facilitators at this year's Native Vision camp, which was held June 2-4 at Shiprock High School.

During the three-day camp, the event offered clinics in basketball, football, lacrosse, track and volleyball with 900-plus youth participating.

"We had a great turnout," Native Vision coordinator Alison Barlow said. "We had most of the kids enrolled for basketball but the other sports filled up."

The lacrosse clinic had roughly 150 kids that signed up, which kept Thompson and his colleagues very busy as they explained the history and fundamentals of the game.

Lacrosse is a team sport that is played with a small rubber ball and yard-long stick that has a mesh net on the end to pick up and carry a ball. The object of the game is to shoot at an opposing team's goal, which is something similar to basketball, said Wendy Kridel, a longtime lacrosse coach.

"There is such a carryover between the two sports," she said. "The strategies, the way you think about offense and defense are identical but the equipment and dimensions are different.

"With these kids playing basketball it would be such an easy thing for them to pick up lacrosse," she added.

Both coaches said their main focus was to teach the fundamentals since they were working with a lot of young kids.

"The kids in Shiprock have been amazing," Kridel said. "I know that they come from other areas but at this camp the kids we've had in lacrosse the last couple of days have been the most enthusiastic, the most energized, the most willing to learn new things that we've had any camp I've been to this summer. As adults we really had a great time working with them."

Kridel said it was a challenge to teach them the skills of lacrosse since they did not have beginner's equipment.

"This is the real stuff so it was harder to learn," she said. "But the kids had a lot of fun catching and throwing the ball."

First-year participant John Rockwell said it took him awhile to cradle the ball.

"It was hard at first but I got used to it," the Nizhoni Elementary fifth-grader said. "Sometimes when you run the ball falls out."

"It's a great feeling when you see the smiles on their faces while they're doing this," he said. "In a way they are sacrificing a lot because they know there is something behind this."

Bussie Rocke, 17, was another student who signed up for lacrosse even though they offered basketball at the camp.

"Well this is my first time trying lacrosse so I wanted to try something new," Rocke said, who has expressed an interest to develop her skills even further by joining a lacrosse team in Durango.

"I probably transfer there for my senior year," Roche said, who just finished up her junior year at Kirtland High.

Kridel, who's the athletic director and lacrosse coach at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland, said the popularity of the game is expanding.

"The game is growing and it's making it's way out west," Kridel, who has been with the Native Vision group since they offered the sport in 2007. "They play it in Colorado and Texas so it's making its way out here."

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