This winter, American lacrosse coaches wrangled 27 players from across the U.S., Canada and the Iroquois Nation to assemble an All-Star team to compete in the 2019 Maverick Challenge in Melbourne, Australia.
One of the players selected was Arcadia’s Mason Donkersley. For him and his teammates, the trip to Australia was an experience of athletic triumph, social stimulation and cultural enlightenment.
“None of us really knew each other. Most of us met in the airport in L.A.,” Donkersley said.
Donkersley’s newly-formed team, called American Pride, would be playing games against teams from Australia and Japan. The event was organized to assist Australia in selecting its 19U national team.
The teams started by playing a round-robin competition to establish seeding, followed by the tournament itself. American Pride made it to the finals, where it defeated one of the Australian teams in a closely contested 11-10 game to earn the gold medal.
The team was in Australia for two weeks, but only six days were spent playing lacrosse in Melbourne.
“The games were really fun but the best part for me was meeting all the teammates and coaches and hanging out around Australia,” Donkersley said.
One of Donkersley’s teammates was Richard Summerland III, from Oneida, Wisconsin, an Indian reservation inhabited by descendants of the Iroquois Nation.
The modern version of lacrosse is based on a traditional game invented by the Native Americans of the Great Lakes regions and the game remains central to Iroquois culture. On the reservations, the sport is referred to as the “Creator’s Game” and is popular at local high schools and colleges.
Summerland, a goalie, was recruited to the team by Bob Leary, who will be his college coach at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, starting this fall.
“Growing up on the reservation and not really getting out that much; going to Australia was a big experience for me,” Summerland said.
He says that the trip helped him become more outgoing and confident.
“I’m kind of a shy person, so it was kind of hard for me to open up to everybody. But the closer we got, it just became easier,” Summerland said.
Donkersley and Summerland both said that one of their favorite parts of the experience was mingling and trading gear with members of the Japanese team. Like many of their teammates, the boys both went home with some rare Asian athletic wear and some new followers on social media.
“Every experience we had with the Japanese team was positive. One of the Japanese guys that I met was named Yuki, and I would say hi to him on the field and joke with him at halftime,” Donkersley said. “They’re always so happy, they always had a smile on their face.”
Donkersley spent the past four years playing lacrosse at Brophy, and this fall he is heading north to play for Indiana University. He said the time he spent with American Pride in Australia was brief but impactful, leaving him with lasting memories and some lessons for use on and off the field.