After a lengthy campaign and an explosive period of growth for the sport, lacrosse will officially be played at the 2028 Olympic Games.
“It’s the world’s biggest sports stage that you could imagine,” said Leo Nolan, executive director of the Haudenosaunee Nationals.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved the inclusion of lacrosse sixes, a version of the sport created specifically for the Olympics, alongside baseball/softball, cricket, flag football, and squash.
“It’s a good, fast-paced game,” said Nolan of sixes, which features six-on-six play and only 12 players per team. “It’s got great fan appeal. That’s really a selling point that World Lacrosse has made to the Olympics.”
The Olympics has a cap on the total number of athletes, making a sport with fewer athletes easier to accommodate.
With lacrosse ready to go, the question now is whether the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and its wealth of lacrosse talent will get the chance to play under the Hiawatha Wampum Belt flag.
“It’s not a done deal. We still have a lot of work to do within our respective organization,” said Nolan.
The Haudenosaunee Nationals are working to meet IOC protocols for inclusion, he said, wanting to ensure that any possible inclusion of the confederacy be lasting. “We’ve got to think about our future generations so they don’t have to face these challenges like we do,” he said.
Lacrosse was last held competitively at the Olympics in 1908, with a few subsequent editions hosting demonstrations of the sport. However, it has grown tremendously in recent years, with up to 90 countries now playing the Creator’s game.
“Obviously we are overwhelmed with the worldwide support that came forth from many different sectors to have lacrosse be included. It was a real challenge,” Nolan said.
Local players, coaches, and administrators are ecstatic to have the chance to aspire to compete in the world’s most renowned sporting event.
“It’s definitely something we’ve been waiting for,” said Kirby Joe Diabo, organizer of Fall Ball and vice-president of the Kahnawake Mohawks Minor Lacrosse Association (KMMLA). “There’s been talk about it for years, and now it’s finally a reality. Now the best advice I can give to these young kids is ‘get to work,’” he said.
He said Kahnawake has enough lacrosse talent to be represented at the Olympics in 2028, with several contenders and more still to come.
“Lacrosse in the Olympics, I never thought that would be possible,” said Darris Jones, 15. “But the game of lacrosse has been growing forever. In my eyes seeing where it came from and now is amazing.”
The talented young lacrosse player said the possibility of playing in the Olympics is helping to inspire him to find ways to improve his game.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for lacrosse to finally be showcased at the world level,” said Al Jones, Darris’s father, who himself has competed at the World Games. He said this can now be added to other opportunities provided by lacrosse, such as the possibility of attaining scholarships at elite schools.
“Now to add on the Olympics, that’s a whole other stepping stone to push these kids to say wow, now I can be an Olympian, if I work hard. That’s going to be a great push for these kids to push themselves and get them to the next level,” he said.
This article was originally published in print on Friday, October 20, in issue 32.42 of The Eastern Door.
Marcus is managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.