Tradition, team-building, and finding passion were main topics at hand when professional lacrosse athlete Jeremy Thompson of the Saskatchewan Rush ran a workshop and talk with several students from Flying Dust First Nation on Monday, April 23.
Last year, Thompson and Craig McCallum, a professional hockey player originally from Canoe Lake Cree Nation, connected as friends and professional athletes. Thompson is an Iroquois man from Onondaga Nation, New York. They shared stories of each other’s backgrounds and decided they both wanted to mentor youth across the province.
“It basically comes down to mentoring the next generation of kids,” he said. “To let them know that every kid is special, and to find those gifts within themselves and to know there’s opportunities out there through sports. I’ve used it as a vehicle to get myself an education.”
Both McCallum and Thompson said what drew them together as friends aside from the sports connection was their past history of overcoming challenges with drugs and alcohol in their youths.
“I share my story of the roadblocks in my lifetime,” Thompson said. “We all know that we’re only human, but those obstacles and adversity that we overcome in life are lessons to be looked at.”
Throughout the workshop, Thompson also focussed on lacrosse’s deep roots in Indigenous culture, and taught students from grades 4-12 some drills while they played some fun games and scrimmages with them.
“The game of lacrosse is the medicine for our people to heal our minds, body and spirit,” he said. “I’m enjoying crossing path with these kids. I always try to see myself as an uncle to a lot of these kids in these communities, because growing up you think about a lot of figures in your life.”
McCallum grew up playing in the Meadow Lake Minor Hockey system and said he was thrilled help coordinate these visits with Thompson. He works for Al Anderson’s in Saskatoon, and the company will be donating lacrosse starter kits to some of the communities, including Flying Dust.
“Any opportunity to provide youth with a positive experience is what I’m about too,” McCallum said. “I jumped at the opportunity to help coordinate camps with him. It might give [the kids] some purpose or give them the opportunity of a new sport they want to try.”
Thompson is Canoe Lake today. As part of an initiative with the Rush, he will be visiting La Loche on Thursday.
Flying Dust’s Jenna Desjarlais said she was excited to meet someone from the Rush team after going to a couple games with her cousin, but was eager to learn new skills too.
“It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s one of the sports I’ve never played before.”
On Twitter @ReporterKath
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