By Kaitlynn Nordal

When most people think of Canada and sport the first thing that comes to their mind is hockey. Jeff Shattler of the Saskatchewan Rush wants to change that while teaching kids on Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation with his lacrosse camp.

Shattler first started working with Standing Buffalo in 2018 when Russ Matthews, now the former director of lacrosse, contacted him about organizing and putting on a camp for them.

“They liked that I was helping there with their kids for the last year off and on and then they came up with an opportunity for me to come out and coach…. and basically, just stay with the kids all year round to get them ready for their season,” said Shattler whose official title is Director of Player Development and Coaching.

Shattler, who has been a professional athlete in the sport for the last 13 years and played with teams such as the Calgary Roughnecks and Saskatchewan Rush, is impressed with the caliber of ability coming from the kids he is helping coach.

“It’s incredible to see the talent that comes off such a small reserve … there are maybe 100 kids involved so to see what they have done with lacrosse over the last ten years has been incredible,” said Shattler. “I’m happy to have an opportunity to grow with their association. I think this going to be a great opportunity to give these kids a chance to learn lacrosse and maybe even get them a scholarship because they do love the game of lacrosse.”

The camp which started the first of September will go until July 2020 and has five teams with 15 to 20 kids each ranging from six to 14 years old.

Shattler goes in three times a week with the kids working on lacrosse one day a week and then working on whatever is outlined by the school’s physical education curriculum the other two.

“I believe in the power of sport I believe in the value of recreation. I recognize that sport is good for children, it’s good for family and it helps to give a community an identity. So, I felt it was an important opportunity for the children and the families of Standing Buffalo” said Matthews.

Shattler looks at this coaching opportunity as the next step in his professional career.

“Lacrosse has given me so much. So, if I have an opportunity to build a community and bring it to Saskatchewan … I’m going to do my part and give back to the kids and help these kids develop good habits … it’s a good opportunity for me, something I have always wanted to do as I got older, I want to give back to the kids of Saskatchewan” said Shattler.

Cruz Bear is one of the children participating in this year’s camp. The eighth-grader has been playing Lacrosse since he was eight years old and watched his friends play the sport so he decided to try it as well. Bear decided to participate in the camp to work on his skills in the sport so that he can get better. He hopes that the camps continue and hopes to be as athletically inclined as Shattler in lacrosse so that he can one day also play for the Saskatchewan Rush.

Bronson Yuzicappi who is in the fourth grade started playing lacrosse when Shattler put the camp on at his school last year. Yuzicappi said he is having lots of fun in the camp and hopes to keep participating in them.

Both Shattler and Matthews hope that this camp can lead to a future in lacrosse for the children participating.

“I think they are doing great things with their community and I think lacrosse is a great way to bring the community together. You can tell that they are serious by the people that they are bringing in and trying to develop this program even more to the next level and then give these kids an opportunity for scholarships. I want these kids to maybe have an opportunity to get showcased and see some scouts and see if they get the opportunity to play in BC or Ontario.” said Shattler.

For Matthews, the camp was also about bringing the community together.

“We just want people to embrace the game, play it, have some fun, get some exercise, and meet new friends. It’s just an opportunity for kids to be kids and families to be families,” said Matthews.

Since Matthews first introduced the sport to Standing Buffalo 10 years ago it has turned into something most people in the community are involved with one way or another. There are 11 certified coaches, three referees, community members who also help manage the team and transport them to various things and help with fundraising.

“Those things help a community to get together and build a strong community that has an identity,” said Matthews.

With how much time and effort the community puts into the sport Shattler thinks it will lead to them being more athletically inclined in the sport than their counterparts.

“As long as we have a stick in these kids hands I really believe that when the time does come and they play in their late teens they are going to be some of the more dominant players where kids will have to catch up to them because they play year-round,” said Shattler.

Those involved with lacrosse on Standing Buffalo have been looking into starting an in-house program to get even more kids from the community involved. They have also been in talks with surrounding First Nations communities about bringing lacrosse to their community.

“We would like to spread the game as much as possible, so the Chief has come up with a great idea to work with the surrounding reserves and get them involved with the game of lacrosse because it is a part of our heritage and its good for these kids to know that,” said Shattler.

Standing Buffalo has developed five lacrosse teams going from novice (7 to 9 years old) to Jr B (ages out at 21) playing in the Queen City Minor Box Lacrosse League (QCMBL). There are eighty players on the Standing Buffalo Fighting Sioux lacrosse teams.

Standing Buffalo is the only First Nations community in Saskatchewan to have a full set of lacrosse teams.

All photos courtesy J. Shattler