TAHLEQUAH, Okla. The Nighthawks, formally known as the
Gadugi Warriors, are a group of local men and women who formed a
stickball team with hopes to bring back the game to Native tribes.
Marcus Thompson, team coordinator, said the team changed its
name to the Nighthawks because some people had trouble pronouncing
gadugi. He said members also wanted to keep the name diverse since
there are players from the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band
and Creek and Choctaw tribes.
On Feb. 9, 2013, the team started with 12 players. Its numbers
gradually increased and now has 52 players, with nine being women.
However, unlike traditional stickball rules, the women don't use
their hands if they become Nighthawks. They use stickball sticks
just like the men.
Thompson said the Nighthawks hope to bring back the game to
their team members' respective cultures.
"We're trying to get the game back out and play, and the more
Cherokees we got that play it, the better," he said. "It's been
gone for awhile, except for the social game, but we're trying to
get it back in our culture. That way we can play it more."
However, Thompson said his favorite thing about being on the
team is just being able to play stickball.
"I've been playing for awhile. Lot of our teammates, they just
started and ain't never played before," he said. "Most the time
we play would be what they call a social game and that's for men
and women with a pole and a fish. And the game we're playing now
is the men's game, supposedly, but we have men and women playing
too because they like to play."
The team only accepts players who are 18 and older. Sometimes
at practices children play for fun and to learn.
Anyone interested in joining the Nighthawks or seeing them play
can join their Facebook page, which is listed under the Gadugi Warriors,
or email Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thompson said for those who are looking to join, prepared for
a hard game.
"Stickball, you know, it's a rough game. If anybody wants to
try out and play it, you know, they're welcome to come."
The Nighthawks practice year-round at the UKB's cultural grounds
and the Cherokee Male Seminary Stickball Field in Tahlequah so they
don't get use to one field.
"We'll try to keep up
with the practicing that way, unless
the weather gets real bad. We were out there, I think a couple of
weeks ago, and it was drizzling ice out there," Thompson said.
Thompson said team members sometimes recruit people to play
at the team's practices.
"On a field of stickball, in a tournament, you're suppose to
have 30 people on the field and then you have your subs," he said.
"So anytime we get 30 or more that's good. Sometimes we don't always
have 30, but the team that we play will have to match what team,
how many players we put in."
He said the team's first tournament was at the UKB grounds in
April. Since then, they have played in Texas, Mississippi and various
places across Oklahoma, winning one tournament.
The Nighthawks' next game was set for Feb. 1 in Ardmore and
then another on its one-year anniversary of Feb. 9.
"We're going to have a social game with the girls that we got
playing with us and we're going to play them," Thompson said. "It's
going to be at the UKB grounds since that's where we first started
at. They say they can beat us, we'll see."