Introduction by Bob Scott
“Lacrosse is one of the great team games on the American sports scene. Nearly everyone who has played it or watched it as a spectator loves the game. Lacrosse gets in your blood because it is such a fast-moving and exciting sport.” My love of lacrosse remains as strong today as it was when I wrote those words almost 30 years ago. In the last three decades lacrosse’s popularity has grown by leaps and bounds, and though today’s layers, whether male of female, are more skilled and better conditioned than ever before, the Game is still the Game.
The magic of lacrosse has captivated me—heart, mind, and soul for over 60 years. It is in my blood. The lessons the game has taught me have guided me all my life. The game has connected me with thousands of people who share a love for the game, resulting in lasting friendships with players, coaches, and their families.
Lacrosse, considered the oldest sport known to North America, is a game rich in tradition and history. Yet there is very little lacrosse literature. So it is with great pride that I introduce The Spirit in the Stick. This work is, to the best of my knowledge, the first and only of its kind. Its story is so deep and powerful that it is sure to enrich everyone who reads it. Neil Duffy has shared the incredible story of a boy, Robbie Jones, who joins an ageless fraternity when he is presented with an ancient Native American lacrosse stick by Navy’s Jimmy Lewis, considered by many, myself included, to be one of the game’s greatest players. The stick and its original custodian, an Indian boy named Red Hawk, lead Robbie on a journey to places and times and to meetings with people he could never have imagined. Robbie learns lessons of integrity, respect, and honor from each of the stick’s previous custodians.
This story is a major contribution to the great game of lacrosse. Indeed, it transcends the game. The rich historical and spiritual roots of its main characters provide stories which will touch every reader, regardless of age, gender, or association with the game of lacrosse. In much the way lacrosse does, The Spirit in the Stick will captivate your heart, mind, and soul. It will get into your blood. Prepare to embark on a marvelous and special journey.
I’m sure you will enjoy it!
Johns Hopkins University
The kid from Massapequa Park, NY, talked incessantly about lacrosse, as did his cohorts like Bill Dempsey and Tom Owens. Having grown up where lacrosse was not played, I frankly didn’t get it. But Neil did, and went on to captain Navy’s 1984 lacrosse team. He served in the Navy as a surface warfare officer and diver, before leaving active duty to pursue is other life’s passions: teaching and lacrosse. Duffy was the winningest lacrosse coach in Suffolk Nansemond history before going to Norfolk Academy, where he is still racking up lacrosse wins as he teaches math and science. In his summers, Duffy has been an assistant at Navy lacrosse camp for more than a decade.
With his zeal for lacrosse, the Navy and for teaching kids, Neil Duffy is perfect for writing a book for young men and women about the game that has become his life’s passion. And he has used legendary Navy players to tell the tale:
Robbie Jones is a ninth-grader from Long Island, with a total enthusiasm for lacrosse. Captain Jim Lewis has been watching—almost stalking—Robbie. Lewis has a mission: to find a young protégé worthy of The Stick. The Stick is an ancient lacrosse stick carved by a Native American warrior nearly two centuries before. It has been used and then passed down through the generations only to the most worthy. Along with The stick comes a sacred duty to respect the game of lacrosse and to pass it along to a worthy young man who will put it to good use. Jim Lewis had searched long and far and had selected Robbie to receive The Stick.
Through the course of the book, Jim Lewis mentors Robbie, but much of the mentoring comes in the form of filling in history: history that includes the pantheon of college—and Naval Academy—lacrosse superstars like Owen McFadden ’66, Stuart McLean ’48 and more. The Stick has mystical powers that let its owner see the past through the eyes of the previous owners of The Stick. And through these visions, guided by a Native American spirit named Red Hawk, the game, the history and the spirit of lacrosse come alive.
The Spirit in the Stick is a book ideally suited for young people, but should not be lost on those a bit more “seasoned.” It is a great introduction for the budding lacrosse player to learn the heritage in North America’s oldest game. It is told in a style that will appeal most readily to an audience that ranges from 11-15 years of age, and is told by a man who has spent his lifetime teaching academics and lacrosse to young people. It is a great Christmas gift to the future Turnbull Award winner in your family, or even the kid who likes to spend ours annoying you by bouncing a lacrosse ball off the garage door, like so many others before him have done.
The first person to read this sentence and tell me about it will get a free copy of the book :). - Jason Pressman
04/09/10: I put that last sentence on here on January 1, 2006 and two people have responded since that date. I have to close the offer now, but congrats to those readers.