Lacrosse is in Austin Staats’ Iroquois Roots
Lacrosse has always played a key role in Austin Staats’ life. The 20-year-old forward and The World Games Athlete of The Month for January 2019, grew up in Six Nations, Ontario, an Indian reserve where, he says, “everyone was born with a lacrosse stick in our cribs.”
“My dad and brother taught me how to play from a young age,” he said. “All of my friends played. You couldn’t drive down the road (in Six Nations) without seeing a lacrosse stick.”
The community’s connection to lacrosse runs deep. Six Nations is the only Indian reserve in North America with members of all six Iroquois nations living together, and lacrosse is considered an original Iroquois game.
“The game was a gift to us from the Creator,” Staats said. “It’s a medicine game used to heal the community.”
Long ago lacrosse, or the medicine game, was considered a peaceful way for tribes to settle disputes. The winner of the match would be the winner of the disagreement, chosen by the Great Spirit, according to Native American beliefs.
For Staats, the game helped build lifelong friendships and gave him the opportunity to travel the world.
As the No. 1 overall selection in this year’s National Lacrosse League draft, Staats left Onondaga Community College early to play professionally for the San Diego Seals.
Staats’ parents try to see him play as often as they can, Staats said, and even made it to the Seals’ season opener against Rochester in January. It was the indoor lacrosse team’s debut before a sellout crowd of 12,075 in San Diego. Staats led the Seals to a 12-10 victory with a game-high four goals.
Last year, he and his older brother, Randy (who plays for the Georgia Swarm) traveled to Israel with the Iroquois Nationals to play at the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship.
“It was an unbelievable experience. Never in my life did I think I would take a plane across the world to play lacrosse and get to play with some of the best players in the world,” he said.
Staats says he is grateful for the opportunity to do what he loves and hopes he can use his success to share the sport with others.
He and his brother have dreams of opening lacrosse camps to give more children access to the game.
It’s such a great sport for a young person because you know you go through so many different stages as a kid. (Lacrosse) is an escape from all the real things in your life, you just focus on shooting a ball in a net. You have fun and escape.”
Staats has been described as a generational talent, a standout and accomplished player with a championship pedigree. “It’s pretty humbling,” he said in response to the awards and praise he has received. “I use those comments to energize me to do my job, do my best.”
As a Foundation Partner of The World Games 2021 Birmingham, Protective Life is the Official Sponsor of The World Games Athlete of the Month. These awards celebrate participants from all over the globe, share their unique stories and backgrounds, and highlight the sports that are bringing people together.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.