McGill Redmen Lacrosse Team Recruits First Indigenous Player

Kieran McKay Excels on the Field and in the Classroom

Coaches from McGill’s lacrosse team are excited about Kieran Mckay’s talent on the field and in the classroom. Photo Ion Extebarria
By earning a spot on the McGill Redmen lacrosse team, Kieran McKay made history, yet he didn’t even know it. Photo Ion Extebarria
By earning a spot on the McGill Redmen lacrosse team, Kieran McKay made history, yet he didn’t even know it. Photo Ion Extebarria

By earning a spot on the McGill Redmen lacrosse team, Kieran McKay made history, yet he didn’t even know it.

Since the “modern” varsity team’s establishment in 2002, the McGill Redmen lacrosse club welcomed their first ever Indigenous player to the team. Rookie midfielder McKay, who is Cree and from Richmond B.C., is excited to represent both his culture and the McGill Redmen.

Being the first Indigenous player for the Redmen is a great achievement for McKay. While the first year Kinesiology student is proud of his achievement, he recognizes that he was a little surprised when he saw the news.

“I didn’t really even think I would be the first, coming into the team,” said McKay. “The team is already very culturally diverse compared to a lot of the other teams.”

Being the first and only Indigenous player on the team, McKay doesn’t feel he bears any extra responsibility, and says he doesn’t want any special treatment in the process.

“Obviously it’s a minority in McGill as a community, but it’s great to represent in the varsity sport community as well,” said McKay. “I’m obviously proud of my heritage and that I get to be the first on the team.”

Lacrosse originates from Indigenous culture. According to Thomas Vennum Jr., author of American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother War, the sport was one of many varieties of stickball. Lacrosse got its name by French settlers, and then English-speaking Montrealers took it up while changing the rules.

“I chose McGill mostly because of the academics. It was just an added bonus that I would get a good education and be able to play a sport that I love.”— Kieran McKay.

Lacrosse is still popular amongst Indigenous communities. Coach Tim Murdoch said before McKay, he made attempts to recruit Indigenous players, but was unsuccessful in recruiting them to McGill. He was unsuccessful due to the fact many of them choose to play Division 1 lacrosse in the NCAA.

“It’s very exciting for us cause we’d love to have more members of First Nations communities come to McGill to study,” Murdoch said.

McKay started field lacrosse at five-years-old. He was interested in other sports, but to avoid being overwhelmed, both as an athlete and a student, McKay had to make a choice. It wasn’t until he was 13 that he realized he had the potential to go further in field lacrosse.

As he excelled in the sport, head coach Tim Murdoch and McGill University eventually came knocking. Not only was it McKay’s athleticism and talent in lacrosse that caught Murdoch’s attention, but also his equally strong academic abilities. And for McKay, education was always top of the list.

“He’s very strong academically. [McKay] has a family that really cares about getting a good education,” said Murdoch. “He elected to go the academic route because I think he knew he could [still] play lacrosse at a very high level.”

Despite having received offers from schools in the United States, McKay eventually opted for McGill University because of the prospect of receiving a higher level of education.

“I chose McGill mostly because of the academics,” explained McKay. “It was just an added bonus that I would get a good education and be able to play a sport that I love.”

Photo Ion Extebarria

McKay’s parents are delighted to see their son attending McGill University, a school that values education, as well as playing in a league that offers a high caliber of lacrosse.

“At the end of the day we want him to have a good education, not just a good athletic experience,” said McKay’s father, Colin McKay.

Murdoch is happy to have recruited McKay to his team. The coach has now turned his attention to finding other players from Indigenous communities.

Bill Shatz, the director of lacrosse at IMG Academy—one of the leading lacrosse teams in the United States—was present on Thursday to watch the Redmen face-off against the Bishop’s Gaiters. Shatz, who is always recommending universities to his student athletes, was on an official visit at McGill.

For the five-years that IMG Lacrosse has been around, Shatz made it essential to establish a relationship with Indigenous communities and has been heavily involved in recruiting Indigenous players. From Six Nations, Ontario, Tehoka Nanticoke is arguably the most notable Indigenous player to play for IMG Lacrosse.

“Their knowledge and their relationship to the game bring such an unbelievable capability to any program, whether it’s at the college or the high school level,” Shatz said.

Similar to IMG Academy’s pro-Indigenous manifesto, McGill is now presented with the opportunity to do the same. Both Murdoch and Shatz feel that adding McKay to the team could pave the way and create positive ties between McGill and other Indigenous communities.

According to Shatz, McGill now has a great opportunity. He’s also stressed that the key is to build the relationships now.

“When there’s a trailblazer of sorts, it does open the opportunity,” said Shatz. “So I think it will definitely pave the way and assuming the experience will be a very positive one, I think [members of Indigenous communities will] find more interest in McGill as an option.”

Coach Murdoch highly regards McKay, and recognizes that he can shine at McGill.

“I see Kieran going far,” said Murdoch. “I see Kieran as a really important part of our program for the next four years. He’s a fantastic athlete.”

As for McKay, he said that he’s beginning to settle into the team. He’s grown fond of his new school. “I love McGill and that it’s just so centered within the city, and I love the big city kind of feeling of it,” he said.