I am still in Thailand, and I am already thinking about my next trip to this amazing country.
Needless to say, it was the experience of a lifetime to play lacrosse in Thailand, but the trip also re-opened my eyes to the larger world, and it certainly helped me gain a whole new perspective on my perception of reality. Any breach into the unknown can do that for a person, but the fact that this one was lax related only made the trip that much more exciting, important, and engaging.
I met Glenn Morley in Perth, Australia in late 2000 and seeing him again was just fantastic. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in over a decade, our friendship had somehow only grown stronger. I also got to spend a lot more time with David Ogle, who was a Woozle teammate of mine last Summer, and after a week together, our friendship is now pretty much set in stone. Glenn and David also got along smashingly, and I’m really glad I was able to help introduce the two of them. I could see them being good friends for life.
I got to spend almost a whole week with Rory Baldini and Vinnie Ricasio (aka the Art Of Lax), both of whom lax it up regularly in NYC. The chance to spend a ton of time with these guys off the field was really nice, especially outside of our usual NYC confines. You get to see people’s true character when they travel together like this, and the trip only cemented my belief that these are two of the best, and most genuine, people I’ve ever met in my life.
Whenever I travel to New Orleans to play lax with my brother, and the New Orleans Lacrosse Club, I always end up spending a good deal of time with the elder statesman of the club, Phil Niddrie. Well this time, Phil packed his bags and got his 60-something year old butt to Thailand to lax it up and check out the country; proving that it’s NEVER too late to try something just a little bit crazy. He inspires me to keep an open mind, and I can’t ever thank him enough for bringing his wealth of experience to a group of guys who otherwise ranged in age from 22-32.
Spending so much time with Payu, the President of the TLA, was also really great. We speak on Skype regularly and have developed a close friendship, and we had also met in NYC and CT before. But spending a whole week with him in person in his home country took things to a whole new level. The pride, passion and love he has for Thailand, and Thailand Lacrosse, is just so evident… you can almost smell it on him. His hard work is inspiring, his dedication is contagious, and as a host, he is unparalleled in this world, at least as far as I know. With Payu at the helm, Thailand Lacrosse is destined for continued greatness and long-term success. And you can take that to the bank.
I also got to meet Kentaro Shimizu and Hirofumi Hyashi, two of the refs from Japan, and Yoshiro Suzumura, a former Japanese National Team player. They were an absolute pleasure to speak with, and they are as passionate about the game of lacrosse as anyone I’ve ever met. They informed me that the Japanese Lacrosse Association’s slogan is “Lacrosse Makes Friends”, and I think there is a very good chance I will try to get over to Japan to see these guys within the next year or two. They are passionate about Growing The Game, and have a fantastic perspective on the growth of the sport.
Andreas Rossband was the third (and head) official from Japan for the game, and he is headed back to Germany in only a week. He was all smiles all weekend, and it amazed me that even though he was leaving Japan in only a week (he was living there), he STILL made the effort to come to Thailand to Grow The Game. Amazing stuff. Along with Dennis Kowa, who is a GREAT guy and German National Team player, they made me want to check out German Lacrosse even more than I already did. I really hope Dennis also takes me up on my offer to come to the States for some lax as well once he’s done with his work in Malaysia. I think he’s another one of those “new friends for life”.
I got to meet even more Thai lacrosse players on this trip, and their friendship, courtesy, and hospitality was staggering. These guys seemed so happy to have us in Thailand that it only made all of us that had traveled that much happier to be there. Getting to meet guys like Dan Helfrich (LacrosseRoads) and Dan Willson (tech star/stringing guru for LAS) in person was also just a great experience, and having it happen in Thailand (even though we’re all just a bunch of Yanks) made it that much more special. Add on that this was both Dan’s first trip outside the US, and it only got better.
I could go on and on and on about every single person I met here. From the TLA staff, to the TLA players, to the Thai people we met on the street, to ALL of the guys who made the trip, I have nothing to say but positive things. Everyone in our group was there for the right reasons, and it showed. And it all made the experience that much more unforgettable.
There were some of the obvious benefits (like friendship and community) that I laid out above, which also include seeing new sights, taking in a different culture, and even being able to learn a little bit of a new language. Korp Koon Krub! But there were some more subtle benefits that came from this trip as well, and I’m positive that as time progresses, I will understand them all more concretely.
The fact is, even though I am exhausted, I feel stronger. My body and mind have been through a lot in this past week, and while I am very sore and a bit fried mentally, I also feel a calmer sense of being, and possibly possess a greater appreciation for life. It’s amazing what a trip like this can really mean, and if I finish editing all the video on the plane, and don’t fall asleep, I’m sure my mind will only be able to think about our next trip to Grow The Game. The standard has been set extremely high, yet I hope it only gets better from here.
Get involved. Live your life. GROW THE GAME!