• First Lady highlights lacrosse to fight childhood obesity
     | July 12,2011
    Angie Chung Medill News Service.

    The White House lacrosse event took place on the South Lawn, drawing dozens of children who played both traditional and modern forms of the game. The brainchild of First Lady Michelle Obama, the goal was to highlight the sport, which originated among Native American Tribes, as a way to encourage youth to participate in outdoor activities for both health and recreation.

    WASHINGTON - Lacrosse, one of the world’s oldest games whose origins can be traced back hundreds of years ago to Native North American tribes, could be today’s solution to childhood obesity among American Indians.

    At least that’s what the White House believes. This week, First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! in Indian Country” hosted kids and lacrosse stars for an event whose goal was to show how much fun – and healthy -playing America’s fastest-growing sport can be.

    About 100 children from the District of Columbia and Annapolis, Md., joined Native youth on the White House South Lawn on Monday to attend the event, organized by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Department of the Interior.

    Teams were divided into five separate stations to learn how Native Americans developed the sport, which has deep ties to native people’s spiritual life. The game of lacrosse originated as a ceremonial American Indian healing game, often called the “Medicine Game,” which valued creating a healthy and physically agile community.

    Some of the nation’s best players, including National Lacrosse League player Brett Bucktooth and Major League Lacrosse player Danny Glading, joined in the action.

    By focusing on a sport invested by Native Americans, the First Lady is aiming to address a serious health problem. Data show that Native youth are twice as likely to be overweight than the general population.

    National Lacrosse League Commissioner George Daniel said he believes lacrosse is a tremendous sport that can help address the obesity problem.

    “Lacrosse is a sport where a kid doesn’t have to be big, doesn’t have to be fast - any kid any size can play it,” Daniel said. “You don’t always need all the equipment. Kids just can play it with a stick and a ball. You can play it indoors, outdoors – a kid can play it by himself off the wall.”

    The First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative has impressive national goals. Its main objective is to solve childhood obesity within a generation. This particular segment, aimed at Native American youth, is the only component specifically designed for a cultural and racial minority. That decision was made because so many Native American children are in a high-risk category.

    The popularity of lacrosse is spreading across the nation. More Americans are playing lacrosse today than ever before, according to the 2011 Sporting Goods Manufacturer Association Participation Report. That report found a 33 percent increase in growth among frequent participants and a 37.7 percent increase in growth among all participants.

    Oren Lyons, an Onondaga Nation faithkeeper and a former lacrosse star at New York’s Syracuse University, came to the White House to show children the ties the sport has to the Native Americans’ rich cultural past.

    Lyons said lacrosse, while good for health, also is a “mental game” and a “spiritual game.” It is more than just about winning. In fact, it is the multi-faceted character of the sport that Lyons finds most appealing.

    Recalling his father playing the game, he said there was always the “camaraderie” of the game he loved.

    Parental and adult participation also is key. “If you don’t pay attention to children,” Lyons said, you won’t get the positive results.

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