Randy Staats could be considered a world traveler, but he never forgets where home is.
Lacrosse has taken Staats far away from his upbringing in Six Nations, Ontario. Whether it was finishing his college career at Syracuse University, turning pro with the Georgia Swarm, or playing in the World Championships, representing the Iroquois Nationals, Staats has constantly been on the move. He credits his hometown for his success in the sport and he still calls Six Nations “home”.
“Where I grew up, lacrosse is pretty much everywhere, it’s a part of our culture and it’s a part of who we are,” Staats said. “My dad played the game. His dad played the game, so it’s been passed down to us. Where I grew up, there’s not much else to do other than play lacrosse or play hockey. You’re either doing one or the other.”
Staats prides himself on his work ethic in lacrosse and packs his busy schedule with as many games as possible. He also prides himself on his indigenous background and he’s modeled his game by studying other native players.
“Where I grew up, there’s the Six Nations Arrows Junior A team,” Staats said. “That’s who everyone looks up to and wants to be at that age. There’s a bunch of role models like Cody Jamieson, Sid Smith, Craig Point. All those native guys who went on to college and went on to play pro. They set a good stepping stone for us to achieve something they did.”
Staats has taken it to the next level. Though just 26 years old, Staats, along with some of his Swarm teammates, are already looking out for the next generation by becoming good role models themselves.
“I think we keep raising the bar higher and higher,” Staats said. “Lyle Thompson is doing a great job. There are some amazing people and players. So our goal is to make our communities better and the younger generation better.”
Part of that goal is spreading awareness for indigenous people within the lacrosse world, as it became a major topic in Georgia this year. Thompson, who is Staats’ teammate on the Swarm, was a strong advocate for the Back the Braid campaign, which honored indigenous players during a home game during the regular season. The campaign aimed to help people understand the significance of the braid in indigenous culture.
“I think it brought awareness and education to who we are and our culture. It’s not just a joke,” Staats said. “It brought great awareness to it and it was great to see other teams do the same type of thing and people get behind it. It was a big success and it turned a bad situation into a good one.”
Last season, indigenous players made up roughly 10% of rosters in the National Lacrosse League – a number Staats hopes will continue to grow. The league welcomed Randy’s brother Austin into the league and the first overall pick of the 2018 Entry Draft didn’t disappoint for the expansion San Diego Seals, scoring 32 goals and 29 assists in 14 games. Big brother was proud.
“Yeah, I was very proud,” Randy said. “I know his competitive level and I know how he is as a person and I know his skill level. It was just a matter of time for him to express himself out there and do his thing. He’s a special player and I’m very happy for him and our family is also happy, obviously.”
The Staats brothers have learned a lot of lacrosse out on the road. Their most important practices came at home.
“A lot of practice,” Randy said. “Me and my buddies or my brother or my cousins would go in the back yard and shoot on the net. Basically, that was it. We just played a lot of backyard lacrosse and always had a stick in our hands. Instead of playing inside or playing video games, we were shooting on the net or playing catch. That’s a big testament to how we got here. It was just caring about the game, watching highlights and looking up to people.”