Lacrosse camp teaches life skills too

Kids get more than lacrosse lessons when they come to the annual Lax-4-Life camp on the Fond du Lac Reservation. "The Lax-4-Life camp is more than a lacrosse camp, it's a life camp," said Minnesota Swarm assistant coach and Lax-4-life camp coach ...

Kids at the sixth annual Lax-4-Life Lacrosse camp fight for the ball as teammates and counselors watch. Joey Gotchnik/

Kids get more than lacrosse lessons when they come to the annual Lax-4-Life camp on the Fond du Lac Reservation.

“The Lax-4-Life camp is more than a lacrosse camp, it’s a life camp,” said Minnesota Swarm assistant coach and Lax-4-life camp coach Aimé Caines.  

Not only do the kids learn how to handle a lacrosse stick and ball, they learn how to control their life.

While at this camp, these kids learn valuable life skills. One of the most important concepts taught is the idea of a healthy lifestyle. They learn about healthy eating, suicide prevention, and drugs and alcohol. Additionally, they learn how to interview and prepare for jobs.

The sixth annual Lax-4-Life camp ran Monday through Friday, July 20-24 and was hosted by The National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Minnesota Swarm, in partnership with the Minnesota Army National Guard and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.


The weeklong camp is limited to Native American kids ages 13-15. This year more than 20 kids from six different tribal communities took part in the camp.

“Our real goal is to shape these young minds into not only being active and playing lacrosse, but being leaders in their communities,” said Caines.

However, the camp is not all about preparing kids for the future - it’s also about remembering the past, specifically the origins of lacrosse.

Lacrosse is a Native American sport, created and played by Native Americans long before the French, English or anyone else for that matter. The game is steeped in rich history and tradition. This is why it is unfortunate that Native Americans were banned from playing the game professionally in the United States for nearly a century. During that time, the game of lacrosse faded from from a strong Native American tradition to a thing of the past.

Lax-4-Life  lacrosse camp is trying to bring the sport back to its founders. Caines said the camp is trying to bring back their heritage.  

“Our goal is to get lacrosse back and have them be proud of something,” he said.

Ultimately, the goal of bringing lacrosse to these kids is to offer a healthy alternative to problems that currently affect Native communities such as gangs, drugs, suicide, violence, and diabetes ... and bring the sport back to its former glory.

As for the sport itself, some say it’s a lot like hockey, except for the skates and freezing cold. There are two varieties of lacrosse: box and field. The box variety is usually played in a hockey rink, and the playing surface can be concrete or turf. Teams are made up of six, with one goalie and five “runners.” To keep the game moving there are 30-second shot clocks, much like the game of basketball.


The Lax-4-Life lacrosse camp focuses more on the field variety of lacrosse which, not surprisingly, is played on fields. The field variety is a larger game. Ten players make up a team with three attackmen, three defensemen, three midfielders and one goalie. In field lacrosse there is no shot clock, but stalls are put in place to prevent teams from holding onto the ball for too long.

When lacrosse was first played by Native Americans it was most similar to today’s field variety. However, for Native Americans, lacrosse is more than a game. They play as a spiritual act used for healing and giving thanks to the Creator. The game was also used to resolve conflicts between tribes instead of going to war. These games were much more intense than lacrosse games today. Games would last several days as hundreds of men would face-off in games where the goals could be several miles apart.

Lacrosse isn’t as big today as those games were then, but Lax-4-Life camp hopes to spread the game. Lax-4-Life co-founder Bryan Bosto said the other reservations that bring kids to this camp are interested in having similar camps in their home communities.

“We actually had a couple calls and emails from across the country to expand the program nationally,” said Bosto.

The future of lacrosse is in the youth's hands, and the Lax-4-Life camp is an opportunity for Native Americans teens to get a taste of their home-grown sport and embrace their culture.

What To Read Next
Peterson’s unassisted goal lifts Springfield to the NAHL home win.
Thoreson’s third-period goal is the difference as Posch is tough in net for Minnesota.
Kevin Marx Noren's third-period goal decided it.
A replay review confirmed the puck entered the net with :00.3 seconds remaining.