Grow The Game Invitational: First Thoughts And Reflections

Glenn Morley David Ogle Thailand Lacrosse Invitational Grow The Game
Glenn (left) and David go at it on the field. Off the field? Besties.
Bangkok Thailand Morning time View from Citadines hotel
Bangkok morning-time view from the Citadines Hotel

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.

Glenn Morley David Ogle Thailand Lacrosse Invitational Grow The Game
Glenn (left) and David go at it on the field. Off the field? Besties.

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.

Rory Baldini Connor Wilson Thailand Lacrosse Grow The Game
I usually play D WITH Rory. This time he covered me. Still awesome!

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.

NOLC TLA lacrosse Grow The Game Phil Payu
Two real Game Growers: Phil and Payu.

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”.

TLA lacrosse Grow The Game Japan Germany Refs lax
Andreas, Kentaro and Hirofumi (L to R) at attention as Vinnie looks on.

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!


      • I don’t know who is in charge of the German lax league ( However, Kyle Hawkins, who may sound familiar bc he used to coach the Mizzou MCLA team before he was let go (, is now the head coach of the Hamburg team. The guy is probably your best contact if you want to get a foot in the door of the German lax scene.

        Also, Bill Harkins, the head coach of Florida State, has ties to the German national team, may be a good guy to get in contact with. I know he was an assistant coach for the national team a couple years ago.

        I played over there for a season for Hannover and still have some contacts on the team if you needed any other info.

      • Hey connor, how long did it take the GTG invitational to get off the ground? I wonder if they would be interested, I’m about to shoot them an email to ask…

        EDIT: sent an email to their international relations, exec director, and general manager…. let’s see if they’re interested

        • I see, well from researching (basically just staring at their website for a long time) I don’t think they’re as developed as you guys, although I may be wrong of course. I still would love to help them in any way I can, but I guess not everyone is as dedicated as you guys are

  1. Beautifully said, Connor. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of this, thanks to you, Jeff and Payu. I had thought that my trip last year to Manchester was and would be the penultimate lacrosse experience for me, but I was wrong..can’t touch this trip to Bangkok! What a great bunch of guys to make a road trip with…I’ll always feel a kinship with all of you as a result of this shared experience. My desire to help GTG is increased that much more by it..will be helping with the Navy Lacrosse Camp’s 200 boys starting Thursday here in New Orleans with a renewed sense of purpose.