Meet the Superstars of America’s Fastest Growing Sport

Apr 25, 2014 4:44pm
ht thompson brothers lacrosse sr 140425 16x9 608 Meet the Superstars of Americas Fastest Growing Sport

(Erik Korver/Korverphotography.com)

When you hear the word lacrosse, certain colleges come to mind: Duke, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse. And you may think of prep school boys and privilege.

But there’s another name in the sport synonymous with greatness yet far from the stereotype.

“He is the Wayne Gretzky, the Michael Jordan. He is on another level of athlete. … There’s no question,” said Scott Marr, head coach of the men’s lacrosse team at the University of Albany.

He is Lyle Thompson and he’s playing the sport of his ancestors. His teammates include his brother Miles and cousin Ty. They’re Native Americas for whom lacrosse is more than a game, it’s almost a religion.

“It’s part of us. It’s, it’s in our blood,” Lyle said of the sport.

On the Onondaga Nation territory in upstate New York, where the brothers are from, they call lacrosse “the medicine game.” It’s a game Native Americans invented nearly 800 years ago.

The Medicine Game,” a documentary by Lukas Korver, follows the Native American lacrosse stars’ family.

The boys on the reservation receive lacrosse sticks at birth and start playing the moment they can walk. Many are buried with the stick when they die.

The Thompsons’ father, Jerome, an iron worker by trade, taught them the game. They practice in all kinds of weather, day and night.

Like their ancestors they keep their hair long with a signature single braid flowing behind them.

“I know what they’ve been through, their long hair,” said Jerome Thompson. “They used to get picked on a lot for that. I don’t even want to mention some of the names that they’ve been called.”

But with every racial slur and taunt they brothers respond the same way.  They score goals.

They score more than anyone else in the country and are star players at the University of Albany, the top scoring Division 1 team. The Thompsons are considered the most formidable threesome in college lacrosse.

“They’re as good as any attack group as I’ve seen play the game in the modern era of lacrosse,” Marr said.

On the field they have a secret weapon. They communicate in their native language, leaving their opponents clueless. But the boys always remain respectful and honor the Native American culture.

“Everything is about respect, respecting life, respecting trees, you know, everything that’s out there, and that’s kind of the way I carry myself in every part of my life. Even on the lacrosse field, I respect everything,” Lyle said. “I don’t get mad, you know when I get whacked or if I’m losing.”

After graduating college the brothers will turn pro. But their bigger goal is to return to the reservation where opportunities are rare.

“We wanted to go off to school, you know, learn to live in society today because that’s what we need it for, and then go back to our ways and carry on our traditions,” said Miles.

Their game is a great gift and they hope will provide opportunities for generations to come.

ABC News’ Jennifer Metz contributed to this report.

SHOWS:
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus