Steve Sedano thinks big, and if his big vision for lacrosse comes to fruition this summer, some 1,500 kids in South LA will take part in Thunderbird Landing, the kickoff event for his LA Thunderbirds nonprofit lacrosse program.
Sedano is a 2013 graduate of Downey High School, where he played one year of lacrosse for Coach Scott Witkin, and a 2017 graduate of Cal State Long Beach, where he double-majored in anthropology, with an emphasis in biology, and sociology (although he says he came up two classes short of the sociology degree).
While in school, he began looking for ways to reach back into South LA and lend a hand. He landed on the idea of the LA Thunderbirds, a program that would teach kids lacrosse while providing academic guidance and mentorship.
“The way we see it,” reads the organization’s media package, “it is now our responsibility to pass on what we have learned to the next generation of kids. Many of them do not have anyone to teach them and show them a different life, a better life. We hope to change that by giving them the resources they need.”
Sedano, 22, incorporated the LA Thunderbirds as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit shortly after graduating last summer, and he has enlisted the help of Downey Mayor Pro Tem Rick Rodriguez and other local business leaders to begin building support and raising funds.
By this summer, he hopes to kick things off with an introductory clinic at LA Southwest College. Through Witkin, who now coaches at Claremont College, Sedano hopes to enlist the help of local MCLA players as coaches with the LA Thunderbirds, and he also has reached out to Bill O’Brien of Thompson Brothers Lacrosse with an invitation to participate.
Eventually, Sedano said he hopes the LA Thunderbirds can establish a foothold in South LA through a dedicated training facility and programs at high schools and middle schools throughout the area.
“It’s not a club program where people have to pay for this and pay for that,” Sedano said. “Everything will be supplied for free. All we ask is for is to give your conscious effort, to do your best. We’ll give you everything you need. We just want your best effort. If you do that, you can take yourself wherever you want.”
Sedano said he was truly inspired by the Native American origins of lacrosse when Witkin introduced him to the sport, and he has embraced much of the game’s spiritual history and wants to spread throughout South LA.
“Native Americans created lacrosse as a medicine game,” he said, “a game to provide health and nourishment, to settle disputes, all these different things that are so admirable and noble, and that just really drew me into it.”
He also referenced the Iriquoian “Seventh Generation Principle” that the decisions made today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. That is his goal for the LA Thunderbirds.
“This is going to make a significant impact, and this is going to change lives,” he said. “This is going to get kids into schools that they could never have thought they could have gone. This is going to give them opportunities that they didn’t think were ever possible; this is going to give them opportunities to give back at one point or another.”