Bust Out The Wooden Lacrosse Sticks, Even For Lancers Games
by Donnie Webb - Syracuse.com
Shenandoah and Percy Booth hold their traditional wooden lacrosse
sticks they're using this season.
(photo by Donnie Webb | email@example.com)
Defensive midfielder Emerson Shenandoah of the LaFayette High
School lacrosse team wields the elegant, hand-carved piece of hickory
like a scepter during a Friday afternoon practice. He effortlessly
extends the "woody" into passing lanes, intercepting balls
or knocking them down. In drills, he scoops up ground balls and
flicks accurate passes to teammates on the fly.
Running down field carrying the ball is another matter. Shenandoah
admits the stick is so heavy, he can't feel the ball in his crosse.
If it fell out, Shenandoah says he'd keep on running, oblivious
to his lost treasure.
But there's no missing the pieces of history and tradition that
are making an appearance this season at LaFayette. In a world of
high-tech plastics and metal shafts, Shenandoah and teammate Percy
Booth have broken out wooden, traditional lacrosse sticks - in high
The sticks they are using were crafted by renowned stick-maker
Alf Jacques of the Onondaga Nation. They are made from a single
piece of hickory harvested from the Onondaga Nation, then carved,
shaped and bent so they can be fitted with a pocket of rawhide and
nylon. There is a signature purple shooting string that represents
the wampum and Iroquois nation.
The "woodies," as they're called by the players, look
like works of art. But they're being used in Syracuse area high
school games, perhaps for the first time in decades.
LaFayette High School coach Mike Riese said the use of wooden
sticks in the high school game is legal as long as they meet the
Booth has used his wooden stick in LaFayette games against Baldwinsville
and Onondaga this season. He scored a goal in one of the games.
Shenandoah is using a longer, defensive stick that he borrowed from
Kevin Bucktooth, a member of the Iroquois National team. Shenandoah
said he's using the heavier wooden pole in practice to get a feel
for the different stick. He's brought it along to LaFayette games
but says the width of the hand-carved top is a half-inch too wide,
making it illegal for high school games.
They may be present on Wednesday when LaFayette meets CBA in
a Class C Section III playoff game.
Their presence has already brought pride to the Onondaga Nation.
"I think it's great," said Jacques, who says there's
a year's wait to get one of his sticks and calls the demand, overwhelming.
"It makes me proud that these young men wanted to go back to
the wood. Its part of tradition here, part of the culture,
part of lacrosse's roots that come out of Onondaga."
Shenandoah's wooden stick weighs between 3 and 4 pounds. A regular
metal stick with plastic head can weigh a half-pound.
But there is a different weight that Shenandoah and Booth carry
when using the wooden sticks.
They welcome the opportunity to bring honor to the creator's
game by playing with a wooden stick. There is an enormous connection
with their heritage and their identity as Onondaga.
"It's part of our tradition. Something we've played with
forever," said Shenandoah. "It makes you feel a little
closer to the game."
"It was pretty awesome," Booth said of the goal he
scored using the wooden stick. "The ref said I was the first
one he'd ever seen try and use one."
Jacques said he played with a wooden stick at LaFayette High
School in the 1960s. He said they disappeared in 1974 with the arrival
of plastic sticks and metal shafts. He said there were the occasional
wooden stick still popping up until around 1993, but said he knows
of no high school player using one since Booth and Shenandoah this
The wooden stick Booth is using was custom made for a left-hander
and to fit high school regulations. Booth said he took offense to
implications the sticks were "weapons" during the World
Lacrosse Championships last summer in Denver. Some members of the
Iroquois Nationals used the wooden sticks, though not without controversy.
There were several penalties called against the Iroquois for slashing.
Bucktooth was called for three penalties in a loss to Canada and
had to switch to the conventional stick.
"I wanted to show they can be used to score," Booth
said, " because I'm a goal scorer."
The wooden sticks can cost more than $300. When Booth shot during
Friday's practice, his follow-through clanged into the stick of
a defender. Another player piped up immediately, "Aren't you
worried about breaking it?"
Jacques signs each of his sticks including this one being
used by LaFayette High School's Percy Booth.
(photo by Donnie Webb | firstname.lastname@example.org)
The players say the sticks are nearly indestructible. They also
carry a little more pain when checking.
"It's more solid, so it hurts," Shenandoah said.
Booth and Shenandoah both said they feel something spiritual
using the sticks. They've used wooden sticks since they were children.
Onondaga men are often buried with their sticks as well. Shenandoah
said he hopes to use his wooden stick more in the future. Booth
said he's already made a point this season.
"I was just trying to use it, show people we've still got
'em, still use them," Booth said. "We use them in the
box lacrosse game. but We don't get to use them in field. That's
where most people see us play. So it was a pretty great experience."
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