Christina Rose
Black Wolves lacrosse players Bill O’Brien (left) and Brett Bucktooth (right) are surrounded by children who came out to learn about lacrosse at a winter camp..

“Breaking Windows at Home”: Teaching Youth to Love LAX

Christina Rose

Bill O’Brien, 26, Onondaga, and Brett Bucktooth, 31, Oneida, two lacrosse players with the New England Black Wolves, say that bringing the game to children is what it’s all about.

The Mohegan Indian Tribe recently purchased the Black Wolves, and through the tribal recreation and cultural departments, sponsored a winter camp event for their youth to learn about the sport of lacrosse and to meet two of the players. The event was held at the tribe's community center in Uncasville, Conn.,  Monday, Feb. 16.

The youngsters listened intently to O’Brien and Bucktooth’s stories. One young man asked, “How did you get into lacrosse?”  Bucktooth answered, “It takes a lot of practice and years of breaking windows at home.” The players offered an inspirational message to the children, reminding them that it is important to do things for other people. One child asked Bucktooth, “What’s it like being a lacrosse player?”  He answered, “It’s a lot of fun, and we don’t play for ourselves. We play for the Creator, and it’s an opportunity to go out and give it your best.”

Bucktooth told a story that reflected the importance of the game in his community. “When my son was born, I put a lacrosse stick in his cradle, not only signifying the passing on of the game, but that connection we have with our ancestors thousands of years ago. The stick I put in my son's cradle was a wooden stick made by our stick carver back home, made from ash and hickory. The netting and stringing is made from deer hide; everything came from Mother Earth. When my grandfather passed away, we put his wooden stick into his casket so he can play lacrosse in the Creator's land. Everything is natural and in a cycle. The wooden stick, the leathers, the gift from the animals and the gift from Mother Nature is going back into the earth, and is reborn with my son having a wooden stick in his cradle. This has been going on since the beginning of time, since we started playing lacrosse on earth.”

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“Obviously, the roots of Lacrosse are established in the Northeast with the Iroquois, with the Mohegans, so I think it’s huge and taking steps in the right direction to show respect for the ancestry of the game,” O'Brien added. This is his first year playing professional Lacrosse. “It’s been a lot of fun, and the Mohegan Tribe has been taking great care of us. I think it’s a good platform, having it here,” he said.

The teammates got down and dirty with the Mohegan kids, who chased each other around the gymnasium in a fair comparison of the game. The children clearly enjoyed playing with the pros and all of them expressed excitement for the opportunity.

Brett Bucktooth and Bill O’Brien finished a practice game with the Mohegan youth and joined them for a group photo.(Christina Rose)

One of the youngsters, Anthony Michael Cavalier, said the best part of the morning was getting the autographs from the Black Wolves teammates “And we are going to play with them!” he said.

“From what I can see, the game is in good hands of the future generation,” O’Brien told the children after they had chased him from one end of the gymnasium to the other.

According to Amber Soulor, recreation director for the tribe, the Mohegan youngsters play on a lacrosse team of their own throughout the year. She said, “We have been playing lacrosse in the gym to gear them up for the players. They were very excited to meet them.”

Nicole Roberge, the director of the cultural department, organized the event.

As of today, the team has won two out of seven games, and will next play at Minnesota on March 14.

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