3d Lacrosse, Nike Lacrosse Team Up to Present Iroquois Golden Eagles Travel Team at FLG in 3d Fall Shootout
DOVER, Del. — 3d Lacrosse and Nike Lacrosse teamed up this fall to bring together a group of young Native American student-athletes to compete in front of college coaches from all over the country as part of a world-class club lacrosse experience.
The Iroquois Golden Eagles, a team organized and led by 3d Lacrosse coaches as a celebration of Native American Heritage Month, took the field this fall at the FLG in 3d Fall Shootout, an annual club lacrosse tournament that draws about 90 teams on back-to-back days.
A group of standout Native American players from reservations both north and south of the Canadian border, the Golden Eagles competed in the 2018-2019 division at the tournament at the DE Turf Sports Complex just outside of Dover, Delaware.
The team represented a random mix of student-athletes from different reservations such as Akwesasne, Cattaraugus and Six Nations. Members of the roster currently attend the likes of IMG Academy in Florida, the Hill Academy in Ontario and the Westminster School in Connecticut. New York State public high schools were represented as well by student-athletes from Akron High School, Salmon River High School and more.
Of the 23 players on the roster, many had never competed at a club field tournament of any sort. Some, hailing from reservations, were predominantly box lacrosse players who’d rarely stepped foot on a lacrosse field.
That was all to change the night before the tournament, as the Golden Eagles and their family members gathered at their hotel to meet with 3d Lacrosse staff and coaches. There, the players were outfitted in Nike Lacrosse and Nike goods to test on the field, including the new Thompson Brothers-inspired limited edition Nike Alpha Huarache 6 Elite Lax cleat and Nike uniforms featuring the Golden Eagles logo designed by Nike athlete Lyle Thompson.
Players also used the new Nike Lakota 2 head, the new Nike Vapor Elite gloves and an assortment of base wear and other apparel.
Opening up with a one-goal loss, the team would go on to win the next five games by a combined score of 39-18, taking on likes of field teams from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Alberta.
“We certainly competed to win, but the game results isn’t what this was ultimately about,” said Chris Doctor, one of the Iroquois Golden Eagles coaches and a Co-Director of 3d Lacrosse’s Tri-State region.
“This was a terrific opportunity for Native American kids to join together and compete in a club setting that, for the most part, is foreign to all but a handful of the kids on the team. We hope it’s the start of something special.”
Now in its seventh year, the FLG in 3d Fall Shootout typically draws more than 150 college coaches as teams from across the continent compete on Saturday and Sunday.
“One of the important reasons for doing this is the simple fact that so many of these kids will get through their high school years and not be seen by college coaches,” said Doctor, who hails from Central New York and is of Mohawk descent.
“These guys came to a big event and in many ways stole the show with their highlight-reel plays, but just as impressive was the tenacity and passion they played with every time they stepped on the field. They really showcased our game well at a high-profile event and put even more eyes on the teams there that weekend.”
The Iroquois Golden Eagles caught the attention of more than just lacrosse fans, as one of the team’s acrobatic goals was featured on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 feature and was also featured in various national sports websites.
Doctor, who played college lacrosse at Rutgers University, spent ten years as a Division I college coach before joining 3d Lacrosse. He was a coach with the Iroquois Nationals men’s field squad in 2014, a coach with the under-19 Iroquois squad in 2016 and will be on the men’s staff again in 2018 when the team travels to Israel.
Doctor sees the opportunity to develop more Iroquois players earlier in their years as a positive for the Iroquois community as it continues to hunt its first gold or silver medal at the FIL World Field Lacrosse Championships.
“Bringing these guys to a tournament like this, they’re exposed not only to the coaches but the landscape where a lot of the games most recruited players are seen. And over time, this sort of exposure and blending of those two worlds will help get more Native American kids playing college lacrosse and put more kids on a better path in life. It will also strengthen the men’s Iroquois program by way of a ripple effect from the youth level to the Iroquois men’s teams.”
3d Lacrosse leaders say the idea to bring the team together was born out of many conversations with people closely tied to Native American lacrosse and the Iroquois Nationals in particular.
By encouraging more youth players to embrace the field game and its opportunities, the Golden Eagles staff is confident the effort can raise the level of play on the field for Native American teams and individuals throughout the country, including high schools with largely Iroquois rosters and even the next editions of the Iroquois Nationals under-19 and men’s teams.
“We want to get more kids from reservations to love the field game and getting out and trying to improve at it, and not just as offensive players but other spots on the field,” said Matt Rowley, 3d Lacrosse’s National Club Director.
“The whole idea was to bring up-and-coming Native American players together and expose them to the club world as a group in way that they’d really enjoy but also benefit from as well. We wanted to not only celebrate Native American Heritage Month with our partners at Nike, but we also wanted to showcase a group of talented players – many of them unknown to college recruiters – in a system that we believe in.”
Rowley and the Golden Eagles staff believe the Native American skill set and their natural abilities allow them to thrive in hybrid box-field environments, making them likely to standout out more to college coaches at club events and tournaments.
“What’s unique here is that these players come from a world of lacrosse that has largely influenced how we teach the game at 3d Lacrosse, which is essentially blending two forms of the sport – box and field,” Rowley said.
“As box players, they come to the field wanting to use skills from the indoor game like picks and non-stop deception. So they are largely familiar with the blend of skills and the style of offense we coach from the sideline. It produced some really exciting lacrosse that caught the attention of a lot of people, including college coaches.”
With support from Nike, 3d Lacrosse was able to provide a one-of-a-kind experience that coaches believe will spark a larger interest in the field game throughout reservations.
Jake Henhawk, the team’s Head Coach, said he’s already received overwhelming positive feedback from Golden Eagles players and their families.
“We were able to bring in a great group of kids who we think will be mainstays in lacrosse for years and some might even compete at the world level some day,” said Henhawk, a longtime box coach and scout from the Six Nations of the Grand River reservation located west of Toronto.
“We want these kids to be positive influencers – to go off and tell their friends that the experience was a good one. We also know that we made an impact on the world of recruiting based on how much attention the team received. Some of them could very well end up playing college lacrosse because of this experience.”
Henhawk served as the Head Scout for the Vancouver Stealth of the National Lacrosse League for three years and has been the General Manager of the Six Nations Arrows Junior A box program since 2014. He said he fielded as many as 50 inquiries from college and prep school coaches inquiring about members of the Golden Eagles in the wake of the FLG in 3d weekend.
“Anything we can do to give these kids a chance to create something out of themselves is a win. If we can also raise the level of play in our pool of players, especially with the help of companies like 3d Lacrosse and Nike, that’s important for our future as a community because of how much the game means to us,” he said.
“Some of these guys could be in the mix to represent the Iroquois on the world stage or to play professional lacrosse some day. Their familiarity with the field game at a high level, which you see at competitive club events, will help them all be more prepared for the challenge ahead.”
“But more importantly, if they can see the opportunities they can get through the field game – the chance to get an education and open up more doors – we need to find ways to make that happen. This is really a Native American sport and we should have as many of our players representing us on the game’s biggest stages and the college game is a huge place to showcase our people.”
To learn more about 3d Lacrosse and its offerings, visit 3dLacrosse.com.
About 3d Lacrosse
3d Lacrosse is the nation’s fastest-growing lacrosse services company, offering innovative training, premier events, select travel teams, showcases and leagues for boys and girls ages six through 18 at all levels of organized competition. Founded in 2009, the Company trains more than 35,000 athletes annually using its proprietary Box-Field Hybrid™ Development System that combines the tight stick-handling and ball control of box lacrosse with the team-based field strategies used in Division I college programs. In addition to lacrosse-specific training, professional coaches help players develop lifelong skills, including dedication, teamwork and critical thinking under pressure. Based in Denver, 3d Lacrosse also has offices in Annapolis, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Dallas, Hartford, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco and Westfield, N.J. Learn more at 3dLacrosse.com.
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