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National Reading Month Feature: StringMan

For National Reading Month the NLL sat down with John Carrozza, author of StringMan. StringMan is a comic book about the story of an Iroquois boy, Patwin. Through the “Creator’s Game”, he hopes to carve out a unique identity within his clan, while trying to navigate high school.

What is your background with the game of lacrosse?

Several close friends had been playing organized lacrosse and encouraged me to join our towns recreation team in 5th grade. Once I began playing, I wanted to learn as much as I could. My early connection to lacrosse was genuine because the game was exciting to play, and the more I played, the better my skills developed. The growth I experienced as a player was somewhat due to natural ability, but mainly due to my desire to apply learned techniques. Many hours dedicated to fundamentals, creativity, conditioning, and strength training. As a player, I take great pride in every aspect of my game. Practicing great, will ultimately help you play great.

During my time at Syracuse University, I was a part of several Final Fours (2006, 2008, 2009), winning national championships as a player (2008) and student coach (2009). The Chicago Machine selected me 1st overall in the 2009 MLL Supplemental Draft which was a great honor. Additionally, for 13 years, I have coached at the youth, high school, and college level throughout the country.

Lacrosse has given me many experiences that in part, have shaped who I am today. Perspective on those experiences over time, has guided me to develop a daily state of mind, where I aim to help others.

What was the inspiration behind StringMan?

I have always enjoyed the craft of storytelling and been intrigued by ways to effectively communicate. Lacrosse, in my eyes, needed something new, something unique, something positive that brings people together.  Then, it became clear. Lacrosse needs a comic book, with a leading indigenous character that embodies the Haudenosaunee Community.  StringMan highlights Haudenosaunee culture and illustrates a diverse and inclusive world.

Using this platform, StringMan also provides non-lacrosse players and/or potential lacrosse players with an introduction to this wonderful sport, on their own terms. Creating something new from conception to final product takes a lot of time and effort. Over the course of 5 years, I researched, drafted, and edited continuously until I landed on something I wanted to share. I enjoyed creating an authentic perspective for the audience. The ability to bring an idea to life, provided key enlightenment on my continued journey of self-discovery.

Why is it important for you to promote the Indigenous roots of the game?

We have a duty to understand and connect with the humble beginnings. There are many factors in the modern world that can disrupt our sense of appreciation for lacrosse. Reflecting on the origins of the game should be a catalyst for mental clarity before training sessions, practices, or games.  You may find that over time, you can implement that same mental clarity into other aspects of your life.

What was your biggest inspiration for developing StringMan?

From an early age, I was drawn to indigenous cultures of the northeast United States. The indigenous view of the world is fascinating. Thoughtful interpretations, understanding and connectedness to the natural world, family/community-based ideals and unique spirituality are very powerful concepts to me and sources of inspiration.

What lessons are you hoping to teach kids through your book?

My hope is that children feel comfortable enough to connect part of their identity to StringMan. A safe space where they are empowered to learn, grow, and take away valuable lessons.  Through those lessons, contribute to their families and communities in a positive way. Modeling resourcefulness, empathy, understanding, and acceptance are values I wish to impart onto the next generation of young people.

Literacy is the infrastructure for successful communication.  A fundamental element in personal development, self-advocacy and success in life.

Are there any resources you would recommend for people wanting to learn more about the history of lacrosse or understanding indigenous culture?

I would encourage people research and listen to the teachings of Oren Lyons. His message and delivery are powerful. Providing listeners with a first-hand account of the indigenous perspective, and the significance of lacrosse to the Haudenosaunee.

What does the future hold for StringMan?

StringMan is partnering with several non-profit organizations, high school, college, and professional lacrosse teams to launch its Literacy Campaign. Our objective is to increase the level of achievement among children in underserved communities, by empowering them to read. Utilizing players and coaches as mentors, focused on a common goal, we can positively influence the future success of children in these communities. Together we can build relationships, forge new ones, and honor the legacy of the Haudenosaunee, with a modern-day tale.

Any advice you would have for kids about playing collegiate/professional lacrosse or to be successful adults?

We all start somewhere. Have patience with where you are and visualize where you want to be. Create a plan for the ways you can give yourself the best opportunity to reach your goals. Identify someone with the level of success that best suits you. Research how/what they did to attain their goals. Through trial and error, you will learn the benefits or drawbacks of those activities/skills. No better feeling than reaching a personal goal. There are times the journey gets tough, but resiliency and persistence will guide you when you feel lost. Stay the course, be true to yourself and your effort.

Any other thoughts you want to share?

Thank you to the NLL for taking time to learn more about StringMan!

Go Cuse!

To view other books and resources about Indigenous culture, check out this page