Carolina Chaos midfielder Kyle Jackson

Appreciation in the medicine game: Kyle Jackson’s journey through lacrosse

By Hayden Lewis | Jun 27, 2024

Growing up in Ontario, Kyle Jackson quickly engaged with the Creator’s Game, along with other sports like hockey, tennis, badminton and volleyball. The blond-haired, blue-eyed kid fell in love with lacrosse and began his mastery of the game. 

During his early years, Jackson played for Team Ontario at various levels and Team Canada at the U19 level, earning a few medals in competition with those teams. However, after graduating from Michigan in 2016, Jackson decided to pave a new path with a different squad, the Iroquois Nationals.

“I grew up in our hometown, Sarnia, Ontario, which was the town right beside the (Aamjiwnaang First Nation) reserve,” Jackson said. “And it was more or less just through opportunity that I jumped in and tried out for the Iroquois Nationals and made the team.” 

The opportunity was sparked by Jackson’s native heritage. His father is 50% Native American and a member of the Turtle Clan, making Jackson 25% and a member.

At first, Jackson felt a little out of place because he was different. He didn’t “look” like he fit in. However, he didn’t let that hold him back from making a change and showcasing a path for future players looking to play for the select team, which is now known as the Haudenosaunee Nationals. 

“I always say I was a blond-haired, blue-eyed kid that didn't fit in, per se,” the Carolina Chaos midfielder said. “But I sort of bridged that gap between the players and the personnel who looked the part and then also the people that maybe were slightly uncomfortable putting themselves in that scenario because they didn't look like they belonged.”

After joining the squad, Jackson learned what it truly meant to play the medicine game. 

Early in his career, Jackson, like many other athletes, was focused on doing whatever it took to win games and competitions. He didn’t fully understand that there was more to sports than just winning and losing. 

“It's called the medicine game for a reason,” he said. “You get to show up and you almost lose yourself within the game while you're playing, and you start to understand that there's more to life than just the sport and winning and losing, although it's important.”  

The experience of understanding the real meaning behind the game opened Jackson’s eyes and changed his perspective. 

“It just so happens you're competing, you're trying to win,” he said. “You're obviously not trying to lose. But at the end of the day, as long as you leave healthy and you've got a couple of bumps and bruises, you get to enjoy the sport for what it is.”

Jackson learned these details about sports and lacrosse by playing with other great players on the Haudenosaunee National team, including Randy Staats, Lyle Thompson and Zed Williams. It wasn’t solely because of their skills on the lacrosse field and the things Jackson could learn from them, but also because they were “great people and great teammates.” 

Jackson recalled an example of Williams’ unselfishness from last year’s World Lacrosse Championships. 

“Zed, who’s arguably one of the world’s best players on offense, was playing defense with a wooden lacrosse stick and thriving in that role,” he said. “We talk about the medicine game and it just being a game at the end of the day that you get to show up and play and have that medicine with. 

“When people play different positions and they’re egoless, that sort of exemplifies the whole mantra of just playing because you love it, playing because it's medicine, and I think there's no better example than what Zed did, truthfully.”

Experiences like seeing Williams gladly pick up a pole for the Haudenosaunee helped change Jackson’s view on his “why” for playing lacrosse. 

“I always tell people I'm not in this profession to be with all the most skilled players who are horrible teammates,” Jackson said. “I want to continue being a part of great teams where every weekend you more or less get to hang out with your best friends. And then on the flip side, it just so happens you get to play a highly competitive lacrosse game, which is why I’ve stuck with the Chaos.”

Although Carolina is on a two-game skid, Jackson, who's in his fourth season with the Chaos, is confident in where the team is. Playing in Minneapolis this Saturday on Indigenous Heritage Weekend will be an exciting experience, he said, and the Chaos will need him at his best to get back in the win column against the Philadelphia Waterdogs.

“This weekend, specifically, really encapsulates all of that of just showing up and enjoying being around some great people along the way," Jackson said, "passing along a game that truthfully has given everybody so much and has allowed us to be so fortunate in our lives."