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A ‘medicine’ game honors Prep lacrosse coach

Members of the northern New Mexico lacrosse community will come together this afternoon for a game of healing and to honor former Santa Fe Prep assistant coach Bradley Paul, who has a rare form of cancer. (Courtesy of Marc Williams)

As soon as Santa Fe Prep lacrosse coach Marc Reynolds heard about the affliction that suddenly struck assistant coach Bradley Paul, he wanted to do something meaningful to provide support.

And he wanted it to be more than just a fundraising type of event.

Paul, 25, has a rare form of cancer: a neuroendocrine tumor or islet cell carcinoma, similar to the ailment that took Steve Jobs’ life.

It turns out that lacrosse itself is providing what may be the perfect gesture.

The sport is deeply rooted in the Native American culture, particularly among the Six Nation tribes of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora, he said.

And it was considered much more than a simple pastime among the tribes, Reynolds said.

Lacrosse was used to settle differences among nations, as a rite of passage for young warriors, as the signature part of a festival and for religious reasons, according to Reynolds.

The sport was seen as an act of healing and celebration, he said, which is how he is approaching the game he has organized for this afternoon (Sunday, Sept. 22) at 2:30 p.m. at Prep’s Brennand Field.

“It was more spiritual, land-based and ceremonial,” Reynolds said. “That still resonates with a lot of the people in the lacrosse community. It started out with the land. The game was designed to celebrate the universe, and to celebrate life and to heal.”

Rather than the somewhat sterile, modern version of lacrosse, with goals and field linings and officials, this special game will be played more in a traditional style, he said, one in which whoever is willing is welcome to participate.

“It’s a game that will be played with no pads,” Reynolds said. “Most people will be playing barefoot. It will be slightly competitive, but really it’s a community game to bind the community together, celebrate life, and also to heal and pray for support.

“It will be a game without specific goals,” he added. “The goals might be a rock over there and a tree over here. There will be no lines and the only rules are to honor another’s competitiveness while continuing the spirituality of the game. It will be a light-hearted competition with maybe 40 to 50 people out on the field at the same time.”

While the competition may be light hearted, for Bradley Paul, the event is quite serious and appreciated.

“About two months ago, I went to the ER with some stomach pain and stomach discomfort,” he said. “I got a CT scan, and they found a mass in my pancreas and surrounding lymph nodes.”

At some point soon, Paul will be moving home with his parents in New England while he tries to combat the disease.

“I’m doing my best to use my resources to find the people and providers that know what this is, and to treat me to try to get the care that I can, so that I can get better and get back to Santa Fe, and hopefully start coaching again and get my life back on track,” he said.

Having support from the lacrosse community is invaluable in making all that happen, Paul said.

“There’s a huge power to this game, there really is,” he said. “That’s one of the things I love about it and respect about it. There’s so much more that goes with it.”

Paul said he will be forever grateful to Reynolds for orchestrating today’s came

“His mindfulness and his dedication to that history, to truly honoring the people who gave it to us, and what this game means and what it’s really about, is amazing,” he said. “I believe there are very few places that this type of medicine game can happen. It’s one thing to raise money and it’s another thing to go back to more of the spiritual roots of the game, which I think is that spiritual component in terms of healing, (which) is more important than the financial aspect.”

Reynolds stressed that the game itself is not intended to be a fundraising event, although if people want to donate to Paul’s cause, they are more than welcome.

“The game itself is not like a benefit,” he said. “It’s a healing game. A Native person might call it a medicine game, a healing game. I have a few friends who are First Nation members, and I’ve talked with them about the game and doing what’s appropriate, and I’ve also been kind of consulting with them to make sure the game is honored the way it should be.”