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Potawatomi lacrosse player shows path forward for Oklahoma youth

Bryce Peltier plays goalie during a lacrosse exhibition at FireLake Ball Fields in 2018.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation supports youth sport initiatives in the community, whether providing donations through its popular coupon books for team fundraising, hosting tournaments at FireLake Ball Fields or holding numerous sports camps during the summer.

Its most recent ambition has been to revive the Potawatomi lacrosse program. Tribal member Bryce Peltier — a player for top state and regional club teams — was one of the instructors at recent CPN lacrosse clinics. Peltier spoke with the Hownikan about how he first got involved in America’s oldest sport, a game that his ancestors likely played before European contact.

Why did you first decide to try lacrosse?

“I was looking for another sport to play besides baseball and basketball, and my dad and grandpa didn’t want me to play football or hockey. I knew lacrosse was tied back to tribes, and it was offered in the Oklahoma City area. My brother and I gave it a shot and have been playing ever since.”

When you first started playing, did you think you would be any good? Or was it tough because it is different from other sports that are more popular in Oklahoma?

“I started playing in the fifth grade but had already practiced at home with my brother the year before I started on a team. I wasn’t sure what to expect but knew it wouldn’t be easy. The hardest thing to learn is passing and catching, but once you have that down, that’s when it starts to get fun.”

What position do you play? Can you tell me a bit about the responsibilities of that specific position?

“I started playing goalie at the end of my fifth grade season and played some midfielder early on, but goalie is my niche. Goalie is responsible for stopping shots on a 6-foot-by-6-foot goal. A lacrosse ball is about the size of a tennis ball but weighs 5 ounces and is made of hard rubber, so goalie isn’t meant for everyone.

“It is physically and mentally demanding, and you must be able to adjust quickly to constantly changing situations during games. Also, stopping the ball is half the job. You must be able to communicate to the defense and pass the ball back to the offense after a stop. It’s often said that lacrosse goalie is the most unfair and most difficult position in all of sports.”

What is it like playing at a competitive level against teams from other states? Are they surprised how competitive the Oklahoma teams are?

“I have a blast playing competitively. Going up against teams from other states is definitely challenging, but I’m always up for a good challenge. I play on Oklahoma and Texas competitive teams. We definitely surprise the out-of-state talent. Many NCAA lacrosse coaches are starting to take notice and are recruiting here more often.”

As a Citizen Potawatomi, what is it like for you getting to play the same sport Potawatomi were playing 300 years ago?

“I can’t even explain how proud it makes me to play America’s original sport that was played by our ancestors centuries ago. Most players, coaches and people involved in the lacrosse community know about its tribal origins, so that’s also another great thing about the sport.”

What is something you tell people your age about lacrosse that they do not know when they ask about playing?

“The first thing I tell somebody is to not be afraid to jump in and learn the sport. One of the coolest things about lacrosse is that there is a spot on the field for everyone, regardless of their size or strengths. If an athlete wants to play lacrosse, then they will be welcomed by the lacrosse community.”

For more information about playing or coaching lacrosse through Citizen Potawatomi Nation, please contact Brad Peltier at bpeltier@potawatomi.org.