The International Olympic Committee has officially voted to include lacrosse (Sixes) as a medal event at the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. It is a game-changing moment for lacrosse; a game-changing moment for the world of sport.
This will be the sixth time in Olympic history that lacrosse will be featured in the Olympic Program and the first time since 1948, when it was a demonstration sport; it was last contested as a medal sport in 1908.
This monumental decision by the IOC will undoubtedly have a long lasting and overwhelmingly positive impact on the future of the sport. The Olympics attract billions of viewers worldwide. In its long history, the Creator’s Game has never had an audience like the one that is expected in the summer of 2028.
“The legacy, popularity, and growth of lacrosse in North America is poised for mass acceleration, inclusive of traditional epicenters and aspiring hotbeds alike,” stated NLL Commissioner Brett Frood. “There is a robust appetite for all disciplines of the game and this Olympic opportunity will fortify a collective rise-the-tide mentality. Sixes is box lacrosse’s close cousin, so the National Lacrosse League looks forward to doing its part in welcoming, surprising and energizing new and existing fans to our uniquely entertaining sport and game experience. On behalf of the NLL, we congratulate the LA28 Organizing Committee and World Lacrosse and fervently join the global lacrosse community in celebrating this monumental moment.”
For many of the National Lacrosse League’s Indigenous players, this is a surreal moment. Lacrosse is deeply rooted within their culture, and now, the whole world will be exposed to the hypnotizing beauty of the game in its newer format of Sixes.
Sixes has unique rules that meld both box and field lacrosse into a hybrid style of play. Some basics include:
- 6 v. 6 format
- 30-second shot clock
- Played outdoors
- Field size: 70 x 36 meters
- No specialist positions, just runners and goalies.
The fast-paced, back-and-forth style of the game brings an electric energy that will surely entice new fans worldwide.
Those who have known and loved the game – some for generations – will be treated to this newer, hybrid-style of play. What will be familiar to those longtime fans will be the top-tier talent competing. The best-of-the-best from the NLL will be on full display.
Randy Staats, a member of the Haudenosaunee Nationals and the Halifax Thunderbirds, is one of the high-profile athletes who have worked tirelessly on and off the floor to keep the passion for lacrosse thriving in the Haudenosaunee community.
Haudenosaunee players like Staats have lacrosse in their DNA and play a fast-paced, creative style that is well-suited for Sixes. That style of play has been adopted by many Americans and Canadians, particularly those in the NLL. With lacrosse’s inclusion in the Olympics, it is an eye-popping, yet well-thought-out and meticulous way of playing that can be absorbed by and then implemented into the game plans of teams around the globe.
“It’s crazy to think that we would be able to showcase the sport itself, our talents, and for me, where I come from as a Haudenosaunee man, to all these people across the world – a farther reach than I think we’ve ever reached,” Staats said. “That in itself is special, and it’s a big step for lacrosse. It would also be a big step for the Haudenosaunee people and Native people across the world.”
The Colorado Mammoth’s Zed Williams, also a member of the Haudenosaunee Nationals, whole-heartedly agreed with Staats’ sentiments. Williams has played lacrosse long enough to see how Canadians and Americans in both field and box have been helping spread the word about the game. By doing so, we are now in a countdown to the moment when the entire world can see lacrosse in all of its glory.
“Lacrosse has grown so much, and we get to keep watching it grow, and I’m lucky enough to be a part of it. I think it belongs there with all the history of the Native people,” Williams said. “It’s not just the Native people that are helping grow the game of lacrosse. It’s the NLL, the PLL, the Rabils. When lacrosse grows, it helps the Native people be recognized. Not just in upstate New York but in the whole country – it’s global. It lets people know that Native people are still here.”
As more organizations, teams, and individuals have stepped up to grow the game, the more we’ve seen a blending of styles and strategies. Whether in the NLL, PLL or at the collegiate level, the way the Haudenosaunee and Canadians play the game has clearly been rubbing off on teams from other countries like the US.
Beyond the fact that many of the best DI coaches in the game are now using a hybrid box/field style, we’ve seen an increase in American players joining the NLL or taking summers to play in the box leagues above the 49th parallel to enhance their game. USA Lacrosse CEO Marc Riccio was not shy to give plenty of credit to the ones that have indisputably changed how the game is played in the States.
“Let’s make it clear: Canada and the Haudenosaunee have shown us (meaning the US) the benefits of box [lacrosse],” Riccio said. “The… ability for that type of athlete to work in tight spaces, small spaces, and the creativity that box cultivates is never more apparent than when you’re watching the Canadians and the Haudenosaunee, where box is much more prevalent.”
Riccio even went as far as to suggest that because of the success that players with box experience have had in recent years, it is time for US teams to adjust how they play the game, even starting at the youth level.
“There’s no doubt that from a US perspective, the proof is in the performance of these athletes. That has certainly taught us that we need to play more box. It’s real simple: when you’re younger, and you’re playing box, and you’re getting more touches, you’re going to get better – that is clear. That is certainly an area we will look at as a way to develop our national team athletes differently than we have in the past.”
2028 is going to be one for the history books. It will be remembered as the year lacrosse catapulted to world stardom.
Indigenous players and those from Canada, the US and beyond will be leading that charge, much like they were in the years running up to the 1904 Olympics when lacrosse was first introduced to the global sporting community. This is lacrosse’s moment.