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Head In The Game Grantee Spotlight: Homegrown Lacrosse (Minnesota)

Read about Homegrown Lacrosse, a non-profit organization that recognizes the need for safe spaces specifically for BIPOC youth, including a program focusing on supporting Indigenous youth.

Healing through sport: Strengthening community, self-confidence and cultural ties

Minnesota has a complicated history and identity. While progressive on many fronts, it is also home to some of the deepest disparities in the country, particularly around racial discrimination and inequality, education, health care, employment and poverty. The tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020 made that especially clear.

Recognizing the trauma experienced by many in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul (“Twin Cities” metropolitan area) community where the nonprofit is based, Homegrown Lacrosse provides a safe and welcoming space where sport can serve as a release and a means of healing and empowerment for youth of all backgrounds. With the Twin Cities being home to one of the largest and most tribally diverse urban American Indian populations – totaling over 35,000 – Homegrown Lacrosse also recognizes the need for spaces specifically for BIPOC youth. In 2021 the organization added a major program focusing on Indigenous youth: the “Indigenous Lacrosse Alliance.”

The native-led initiative is designed to provide Indigenous youth with opportunities to experience traditional sports and engage in activities centered on holistic wellbeing and traditional culture. Lacrosse has a rich history deeply intertwined with Native American communities. Often referred to as “The Creator’s Game,” the sport holds a spiritual significance for many Indigenous peoples. It’s not just about scoring goals but also about maintaining physical, mental and spiritual health and wellbeing.

A group of girls, holding lacrosse sticks in a field.

The Alliance understands that nature plays a crucial role in healing and personal growth, and incorporates access to an overnight camp on the Fon du Lac reservation. Youth also have access to other Homegrown Lacrosse programs offering nature hikes and mindfulness exercises including the Homegrown Summer Camp.

Homegrown Lacrosse’s impact extends beyond just one program. Through regional and all-state club team programs such as ‘Minnesota Chill’, it works to develop each player’s on-field ability and more importantly instill character, confidence and a sense of their place in the world:

“The Minnesota Chill community feels like a family. The coaching staff is incredible, and are always available for you to ask questions about anything, whether it’s lacrosse related or you just need advice. When on our trips we go hiking, surfing or just hang out as a team, all things that you won’t get to do with other travel teams. The Minnesota Chill helped me work back into lacrosse after a season-ending injury, giving me an opportunity I wouldn’t get anywhere else. Their scholarship program has helped me afford to get to go on these trips and helped me be a better player through them”.

Sam Hauser

More about Homegrown Lacrosse

Believing that youth play an integral role in community development and sustainability, Homegrown Lacrosse uses the sport to help young people feel more connected; to each other, to their communities and intergenerationally through elders. Its programs are wide ranging, including everything from in-school physical education programs and inner-city after-school programs to summer camps to a youth yoga teacher certification.

Not only does it provide valuable life and perspective-changing experiences for thousands of young people, it supports over 120 community lacrosse organizations annually from elementary school to post-collegiate.

But Homegrown Lacrosse’s work goes beyond the field. Ultimately, it is building an inclusive community that is inspiring the youth and young adults it serves to excel in life by fostering cultural reconnection and resilience.

To learn more about the ‘Head in the Game’ program click here. To access youth mental wellbeing resources visit the ‘Head in the Game’ resource hub.