The Norfolk Academy varsity boys and girls lacrosse teams will both compete this spring in Spirit of Lacrosse events that will promote the history of the sport.
The boys will host the Blue Ridge School on March 24. The game features Norfolk Academy teacher-coach Ryan Tucker facing off against his college coach at the University of Virginia, National Lacrosse Hall of Fame member Dom Starsia, now head coach at Blue Ridge. The Norfolk Academy girls will host their event on April 18 against First Colonial High School.
Norfolk Academy boys assistant coach Neil Duffy outlines the purpose of the event: “Our vision is simple - to take the opportunity to celebrate the rich history of the game of lacrosse, express gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy the game, and to look forward to how all stakeholders – players, coaches, officials, administrators, and fans – can find ways to make the game even better in the future. We want to encourage people to take a moment to reflect on what the game has meant to them, and how they might share that experience going forward. This event provides us all a great opportunity to reconnect to the ancient and spiritual roots of the game."
USA Lacrosse, the governing body of the sport in the United States, notes that lacrosse is the oldest team sport in North America, with play documented back to the early 17th century. Originated among various Native communities, with regional variations on how the game was played, lacrosse was played throughout modern Canada, but was most popular around the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic seaboard, and American South. Traditional games were sometimes semi-major events that could last several days. As many as 100 to 1,000 men from opposing villages or tribes would participate. Modern day lacrosse descends from and resembles the stickball games played by these various Native American communities. The modern field game most closely resembles that played among the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois people, who also refer to lacrosse as the Creator's Game.
“The Norfolk Academy lacrosse program is incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the ‘Spirit of Lacrosse’ Game,” said Tucker, who played professionally after his time at UVA. “To celebrate the importance this sport has played in the lives of many, it seems fitting to acknowledge the spiritual aspect of the ‘medicine game.’ There is a collective appreciation for the role lacrosse has played in offering a positive, fun, and uplifting place to go whenever frustration, sadness, or anger strikes. There are healing aspects of this game, and if you look close enough, the healing extends to the soul.”
Monaco, a four-time All-American at UVA, added: “We are grateful for the opportunity to play this incredible game and recognize its rich history. From its inception until now, this sport has filled people with joy and thrilling competition. Thank you to all the coaches, teammates, players, and friends who have been part of my lacrosse journey. At Norfolk Academy, it is our goal to honor a sport that has gifted us with memories that will last a lifetime.”
Starsia, who coached at Brown University in addition to UVA before coming to Blue Ridge, said: “I am both humbled and proud to have our Blue Ridge team participating in the ‘Spirit of Lacrosse’ Game. I have always felt strongly that there is a spirituality of our game that blossoms from its Native American roots. My roommate in college was David White, a Mohawk from the St. Regis reservation in upstate New York. Dave introduced me at an event recently by saying that ‘lacrosse has always been Dom’s good medicine’ and he is right, it always has been. I try to pass my good fortune on to the next generation by telling them that ‘if you treat this game with respect, it can be your friend for a long time.’ I am hopeful that this ‘Spirit of Lacrosse’ Game will touch someone’s life the way that lacrosse has mine.”
Norfolk Academy has designed stickers that student-athletes will place on their sticks during the two games. In addition, announcements will be made bringing attention to the sport's history.
Tucker, Starsia, and Monaco are hoping to spread this event beyond just two games, though. They are encouraging all girls and boys programs – at any level – youth, middle school, high school, college, national, or professional – to conduct a similar event during the ensuing weeks of March and April as a unifying gesture of the Game.
The coaches already have garnered praise from leaders in the lacrosse community. Coach Lars Tiffany, head men’s coach at UVA as well as head coach of the Haudenosaunee National Team: “There is no better time for the lacrosse community to take some time to reflect on all of the progress and explosive growth of the game that has been made in recent years while redoubling efforts to continue to make the game even better for all concerned as we move forward and remain grounded in the knowledge of the game’s Native American roots. This is a perfect lead-in to the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in San Diego.”
Chazz Woodson ’01, head coach at Hampton University and co-founder of Nation United and Sankofa Lacrosse Clinic Series, a USA Lacrosse initiative to bring coaching clinics to underserved communities: “I absolutely love the idea. I was very fortunate to have played at both Norfolk Academy and Blue Ridge for coaches who always taught us to play the game the right way. The right way had very little – if anything – to do with X’s and O’s or wins and losses. Playing the right way meant playing as hard as possible, playing with respect for our opponents, the officials and everyone in attendance, and playing with respect for the opportunity to be on the field together doing something we love to do. What an awesome opportunity this is to recommit ourselves to the roots of the Game and the true spirit of the Game.”
Sarah Aschenbach, current board member of the Haudenosaunee Nationals Development Group, the Thompson Brothers’ 4 the Future Foundation, and The Tewaaraton Foundation: “Lacrosse is so much more than a game. I am grateful for all that the sport has given to me. During these games, we honor the Native Americans who shared their game with the world. We honor our teammates, our coaches, and our opponents through fair play and respect for each other.”
Janine Tucker, recently retired head coach of the Johns Hopkins University women’s team: “The impact that the game of lacrosse has made on my life is profound. I am forever grateful for the people I have met, and the experiences and life lessons lacrosse has given me. The spirit of the game, the joy it brings to so many and the energy it gives off will touch your soul if you allow it. The ‘Spirit of Lacrosse’ event is meant to celebrate and honor ‘The Creator’s Game’ and inspire all to feel the deep, rich, and sacred elements of the sport we love.”
Hall of Fame member and former Norfolk Academy head coach Tom Duquette: “As a young lacrosse player, I was fortunate to be coached by John Wesley Patterson. Mr. Patterson is a member of the USA Lacrosse National Hall of Fame, but more importantly in the context of today he was a member of the White Bear Clan of the Tuscarora. He taught me how to craft that which is essential to the game, the stick. His guiding my hands bending and shaping the wood and in stringing the crosse was not merely a physical act but a spiritual one. I hope, in some small way, can build a similar connection for every player participating.”
Anyone interested in commemorative stickers for sticks or more information on this event can contact Coach Duffy at firstname.lastname@example.org.