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Lacrosse Pilot Program in Youth Justice

Through a partnership between Queensland Government’s West Moreton Youth Detention Centre (WMYDC), Lacrosse Australia, The National Indigenous Sports Foundation (NISF), and Confederation of Australian Sport (CAS) a pilot lacrosse program was run with young people at WMYDC. The program worked to increase sport access among young people in detention, introduce youth to a new sport, recognize cultural connections through sport, and work with youth in identifying and practicing valuable life skills through sport participation. Damien Orr, Growth Coordinator for Lacrosse Australia shared, “Lacrosse Australia is proud to have played a key role in this groundbreaking partnership, working alongside NISF, CAS, and the West Moreton Youth Detention Centre to introduce lacrosse to young people in detention. Through the power of sport, we are not only providing access to a new activity but also fostering cultural connections and empowering these youth with valuable life skills. This initiative sets a shining example of how sports organizations can collaborate to create positive change in both youth justice and community settings.”

Building off of Lacrosse Australia’s introductory lacrosse curriculum, QuickStix, NISF provided guidance and revisions to the curriculum to integrate culturally-informed principles and support greater inclusivity of First Nations young people in the program. Among other aspects, this included discussing the origin of lacrosse and its creation by First Nations communities in North America. Reflecting on NISF’s involvement in the partnership, Wayne Coolwell, Co-Chair of the Foundation said, “The NISF has been established for the benefit of First Nations communities in Australia, and one of our priorities is social justice and restorative justice through sport and recreation. This program worked to support and progress towards that goal. Lacrosse is a traditional game and a great teaching tool, NISF promotes this project 100%.”

The program ran over 9 sessions with young men and women at the centre. Reflecting on their experiences in the program young people at WMYDC said, “The most important thing I learned when doing Lacrosse is that communication and working with your team is everything. The thing I liked best was that I got out of my comfort zone and tried something new.” The sessions were facilitated by a visiting university professor, Kalyn McDonough, and a local Queensland lacrosse administrator and coach, Cassandra-Jayne (CJ) Reiske, with enthusiastic support from centre administration and staff as well as funding support from CAS and Lacrosse Australia. McDonough shared, “It was an incredible experience getting to work with the young people at WMYDC. They jumped right in to learn a new sport, were engaged, supportive of one another and the coaches and staff, and gave us some really exciting feedback about how much they enjoyed the program as well as what we can improve to make it better- which we always appreciate. I think one aspect of the program I found particularly special was seeing WMYDC staff participate in the lacrosse activities and utilize that opportunity to build rapport and have productive conversations with young people, whether it be about a life skill we were discussing, highlighting a success they had, or helping them work through a challenge. I think that can lay a critical framework to support the work they do every day.” Reiske has previously run QuickStix programming with youth in school settings, but this was her first time running it in a detention centre. She shared her experience stating, “I had a fantastic time coaching the participants at WMYDC, it was great to see the effort put in and see the smiles on their faces. I really enjoyed the excitement from participants when we arrived and seeing the turn around on some persons when they went from not wanting to engage to giving lacrosse a go and then all of a sudden running around, passing and working together with their teammates to score goals. The sense of achievement seemed as though, for a moment, they forgot where they were and just got to be sportspeople playing a game and having fun.” Thanks to equipment donations from Lacrosse Australia, the young people and staff at WMYDC will have the opportunity to continue to play, with the support of on-going training.

The collaboration of NISF, CAS, and Lacrosse Australia is one of the first of its kind, and can be used as a model for working towards culturally-informed programming among other national sporting bodies and help to inform future work in both youth justice and community youth sport settings. A practitioner manual outlining the logistics of the program is in development, if you are interested in receiving a copy please contact Please visit Lacrosse Australia, NISF, or CAS websites to learn more about their current work and potential partnership opportunities.

A special thank you to the young people at WMYDC; Cecilia Stevens, Faith Dutton, Kate Bjur and the staff of West Moreton Youth Detention Centre; Wayne Coolwell and the National Indigenous Sports Foundation; Rob Bradley and the Confederation of Australian Sport; Damien Orr and Lacrosse Australia; CJ Reiske of Queensland Lacrosse as well as the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, the Kinghorn Foundation, and the Lois Roth Foundation for their support of Coach McDonough’s time.

For more information please contact:

Kalyn McDonough, PhD, MSW

Assistant Professor

Center for Sport Leadership

Virginia Commonwealth University

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