Note from the Editor: Welcome Austin Colish to the LaxAllStars family. Austin is a lifelong lacrosse lover and motivated game grower. He is also the self-proclaimed “Lax Nomad”, you can follow his game growing adventures on Twitter!
I arrived late Friday night into San Jose airport where I was greeted by head coach of the Costa Rican National Team, Jim Palmer, and from there we headed to my hotel. Unfortunately we got lost amongst the large city and didn’t arrive until about 3am. I couldn’t see much since it was dark but I instantly noticed how narrow the roads were and how many of them were unmarked. Upon arrival, I quickly unpacked and got ready for the next day’s tournament. I was picked up around 8am and we headed over to a local soccer club stadium where the tournament was to be held. I was surprised to see that we would be playing on a gorgeous turf field that over-looked the city and mountain ranges in the horizon.
We met the other Costa Rican players (or Ticos) and began setting up the goals and tape for the creases. An MCLA club team from Denver arrived on a red-eye plane that morning, indicating that I wasn’t the only player suffering from a lack of sleep. Next to show was the Adanacs, a box team from Canada. The last group of players were the ones that amazed me the most. A few “stragglers” so to speak, (those who had heard of the tournament just days before and decided to show up) came to play and coach. There were players from literally all over the world and it really emphasized the growth of the game and the amazing opportunities cast from it. One player in particular, Adam Marshall, coached in Arizona and Washington and also played and coached in Munich, Germany, for 5 years. He was traveling through Costa Rica and decided to come and play.
Myself left, Adam right
We were all divided into 4 teams and I was placed on the green team (the one representative of the miscellaneous players). We each played two games during that day and saw great competition all around. As expected, the Canadians had outstanding field awareness and stick skills. Goal finishing crease dives and behind the back passes were perfectly executed and really seemed to motivate the Tico players. Competition from those who knew the sport helped to teach and provide field experience to the Ticos. On the sidelines, I was able to familiarize myself with the native players and even strung a few sticks to those that needed some help.
Julio Castro left, trying on his new helmet
That night we went to eat at a local restaurant to try some of the typical dishes of the Costa Rican culture. The food was absolutely delicious and based heavily on beans, rice, corn and chicken or pork. As I now had more time to assimilate myself with the locals, it was quick to see how friendly and easy going the Ticos are. They have the saying “Pura Vida,” which encapsulates the idea that “all is good” or “no worries.” It was refreshing to experience a relaxed culture, unlike the one I am so accustomed to here in America. Not well versed in Spanish, my basic understanding of the language was enough to help me get around and communicate efficiently. Besides, most of the people in Costa Rica can speak and understand English.
Enjoying some food after a long day of lax
The second and final day presented another chance to play and compete with the varying play styles of the athletes. We had the championship games the final day. My team played the Costa Rican National Team for third place and the following game was Denver vs Canada for the championship. After we played the first game, I noticed the Adanacs were down an LSM, so I offered to suit up and play for them. Next thing I knew, I was on the wing in white ready for the faceoff. The level of play was intense and presented another great opportunity for those who hadn’t watched much lacrosse to actually experience it. We ended up pulling the win, and won the first National Costa Rica Lacrosse Tournament. All the teams were presented with medals and the winning team received a trophy.
The Adanacs, Canadian box team after the win
Walter Rojas, the president of Costa Rica Lacrosse, did a fantastic job of compiling the tournament. The equipment, players and of course the exposure was extremely beneficial in supporting the newly organized Costa Rican National Team which intends on competing in the world games this summer in Denver. Not only just playing games, we each had an opportunity to grow the game in a different country and help out others by sharing our wealth of knowledge.
I remained in the country for about 4 more days, seeing the beautiful sights from Volcan Poas to the La Paz Waterfalls. The city was energetic and busy with life and the countryside carried a sense of tranquility and culture. I decided that since my trip focused on the expansion of lacrosse, I owed the game and the native players another practice. So, rather last minute, we were able to find a field and pulled together close to twenty players for a two hour practice. As I currently play close defense in college, I had a defense specialized practice. I introduced the players to some basic warm-ups and stick skill drills such as the “star drill.” I spent the larger part of my practice integrating defensive concepts; drawing analogies between sports they were familiar were with such as soccer or basketball. I made them play defense without sticks, forcing the defender to focus more on body positioning than stick checking. They caught on very quickly and soon we were running intense and aggressive defensive drills. We ended the practice with some conditioning and each player gave it their all.
I was extremely impressed by the effort and the passion held within each of the Costa Rican players. It amazes me time and time again how much the game has grown and is continuing to grow. Hopefully, it will remain to expand at the same rate and lacrosse will be a prevalent sport across the world. Looking forward, I can’t wait to return and continue to Grow The Game.
For more info on Costa Rican lacrosse check out their Twitter page!