Promotions are the lifeblood of pre-game and halftime entertainment at sporting events. Objectives can vary greatly -- from quick laughs to an attempt at education -- but few would seem to have the depth as the one being offered this weekend at Xcel Energy Center.
The Minnesota Swarm pro lacrosse team has its home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Buffalo Bandits. In conjunction with that, the Swarm is promoting Native American Heritage Night. Native American kids will play lacrosse pre-game. Local tribal communities will be honored. Halftime will feature a traditional lacrosse match -- the version originally played hundreds of years ago by Native Americans.
The bigger picture, however, extends beyond just one night. The Swarm is halfway into a two-year initiative at the Prairie Island reservation to help kids re-connect with the game their ancestors played. Swarm representatives travel southeast of the Twin Cities multiple times a week to give instruction and lead games.
"And it's not just lacrosse," said Swarm co-owner Andy Arlotta. "We've incorporated all kinds of things into the program. We're dealing with accountability, getting good grades and goal-setting sessions. The kids are really grasping hold of it."
The Swarm's program has been so well received that it was recently recognized at the White House and is being adopted by other organizations around the country, Arlotta said. The program runs year-round, with this obviously being the indoor season (even with the recent balmy weather).
Brian Kimmell is the Swarm's Native American Lacrosse Coordinator and heads the club at Prairie Island. Corbyn Tao, a Swarm rookie and member of the Nishga tribe, also recently began making regular instructional appearances.
"I'm enjoying it a lot," Tao said. "I'm just excited to be able to contribute to it and be a role model. ... The dedication and belief of the kids stick out. They've only been playing for a year, but they're really open-minded. I tell them to try something, and they're willing to give it a shot."
Said Arlotta: "If we can put someone like [Tao] in front of them, that's a great role model."